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Give broccoli a chance

Jonathunder, Wikimedia Commons

Fresh, crisp broccoli stars in a delicious salad, for a dinner side dish or a lunch all by itself.


Luckily, I have not had the childhood experience of being made to sit at the dinner table until I finished every last bite of broccoli. It wasn’t because my parents and grandparents were easy on me, but I just happened to like broccoli. Same with some of the other usual foods many kids have an aversion to, such as spinach, liver, fish or seafood, etc.

The only things I remember not wanting to eat were one grandmother’s dish called creamed rice, and fried eggs (because of the runny yolk). I would sit at the table long after everyone else had finished and left, staring at the egg yolks.

When willing them away with my mind failed to work, I improvised by pretending to cough into my napkin. In reality, I was spitting out the yolks and hiding them within the crumpled paper napkin. It did not take long for my secret to be discovered, for, after all, just how many napkins does a kid need? I had a bunch of them all around my plate. But broccoli? Loved it and I still do.

Here are some recipes that feature the healthful, green veggie.

Broccoli and bacon delight

1/2 pound bacon, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups light cream (for a thicker sauce, you can use heavy cream)

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water

1 pound broccoli florets, from 2 to 3 heads of broccoli, stems removed

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup fresh shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat broiler. Fry the bacon in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel lined plate; set aside.

2. Drain most of the bacon fat from the pan, leaving about 1 to 2 tablespoons for added flavor (adjust this amount to your liking). In the same pan, melt the butter, add diced onion and cook until transparent (about 2 minutes), while scraping up any browned bits left over from the bacon. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper and cook while stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes.

3. Add the garlic and stir it throughout the broccoli mixture for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Pour in the cream, reduce heat down to low and let simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes while stirring occasionally, or until the sauce thickens to your liking* (See notes). If sauce is too thin, stir in the cornstarch slurry to combine.

4. Add the bacon and give everything a good stir to blend all of the flavors together. Top with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Broil until cheese is bubbling and golden, and broccoli is done to your liking (about 2 to 3 minutes).

5. Season with a little extra pepper, if desired, before serving. You can also sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley, thyme or rosemary. Makes 8 servings.

*Notes: For tender-crisp broccoli, simmer it in the cream sauce for 3 minutes before broiling in the oven. Remember, the longer you cook it, the softer it gets. For softer broccoli, simmer for at least 5 to 6 minutes in the sauce before broiling. You can also cover with a lid for a minute or two to ensure softer broccoli pieces.

Roasted broccoli and garlic

4 pounds broccoli

4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400. Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets.

2. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

3. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

4. Remove broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice and Parmesan. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings.

Tips: This recipe makes very crisp garlic. In some ovens it could burn or become bitter. If you are worried about the garlic getting too dark for your liking, add at the last 5 to 7 minutes of cooking time, coated in a little oil and scattered around the pan. After washing your broccoli, be sure to dry it thoroughly. The drier it is, the more it will crisp up. For even crispier broccoli, turn each piece over about halfway through the cooking time. The goal is to have the broccoli crisp and browned outside, while tender inside.

Broccoli salad

8 cups bite-size broccoli florets (about 3 heads of broccoli), rinsed and dried well

1 package (3.5-ounce) real chopped bacon (about 1 cup), or 14 to 16 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 cup dry roasted sunflower kernels

1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup red onion, finely diced

1 cup thick cut shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1. In a very large bowl, combine the broccoli, bacon, sunflower kernels, cranberries, onion and cheese; set aside.

2. In a small bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar.

3. Pour the dressing over the broccoli mixture and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour. Toss again before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Chicken broccoli pasta salad

1 pound (4 cups) dried radiatore pasta (small, squat pasta shapes that are said to resemble radiators)

1 pound cooked seasoned chicken breast, diced into small cubes (about 2 cups)

3 cups small broccoli florets

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup diced celery

3/4 cup sliced almonds

4 green onions, chopped

For the dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise

3/4 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)

2 tablespoons honey

3 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drizzle with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.

2. In an extra-large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing until combined and smooth. Add in the cooked pasta, chicken, broccoli, raisins, celery, almonds and green onions; toss to combine and coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 8 to 10 servings.



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