ANNABEL LANGBEIN

Broc­coli power

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS -

Mol­lie Katzen’s cook­book The En­chanted Broc­coli For­est was first pub­lished in Amer­ica in 1982, at a time when veg­e­tar­ian cook­books were few and far be­tween. As with her first book, The Moose­wood Cook­book (touted by The New York Times as one of the best-sell­ing cook­books in his­tory), Katzen de­signed, il­lus­trated and hand-let­tered each page of Broc­coli For­est.

The re­sult is whim­si­cal and charm­ing. On the cover, set against a pur­ple back­ground, is an il­lus­tra­tion of a for­est of broc­coli “trees”, framed by tiny stars. The ac­tual recipe for the En­chanted Broc­coli For­est dish (one of 200 in the col­lec­tion) is a kind of cheesy brown rice pi­laf with long-stemmed flo­rets of broc­coli stick­ing up­right from the rice, like a mini for­est. I’m not sure of the mo­ti­va­tion for this pre­sen­ta­tion, but I have no doubt that many a mother, my­self in­cluded, has since em­ployed the tac­tic of mak­ing broc­coli look like trees as a ruse for en­cour­ag­ing their young chil­dren to eat it.

Cook­ing tech­nique has a lot to do with whether you are go­ing to like broc­coli or not. Over­cooked, it is sim­ply vile.

My kids would never eat broc­coli un­til I started peel­ing off the outer skin on the stems be­fore cook­ing it very lightly. You may lose a few nu­tri­ents, but the up­side is that it is all eaten, as peel­ing makes it sweeter and more ten­der.

For per­fect re­sults ev­ery time, cut a head of broc­coli into flo­rets and pop them into a pot with about a quar­ter of a cup of wa­ter, a small glug of olive oil, a pinch of salt and the finely grated zest of half a lemon. Cover the pot and cook un­til the liq­uid has pretty much all evap­o­rated and the broc­coli is just ten­der but still beau­ti­fully vi­brant green (3-5 min­utes de­pend­ing on the size of the flo­rets).

If you want a crisp, rather than just-ten­der, re­sult for a salad or be­fore grilling, sim­ply pour boil­ing wa­ter over the peeled flo­rets, add a pinch of salt and leave to stand for 3-4 min­utes be­fore cool­ing un­der cold wa­ter and drain­ing thor­oughly. Avoid lemon juice or vine­gar in any salad dress­ing, or if in­clud­ing acid in the dress­ing toss it through just prior to serv­ing, or the broc­coli will lose its vi­brant green colour.

Buy broc­coli with tight, dark green heads and store it in the fridge. Once the flo­rets start to turn yel­low it takes on an un­pleas­ant odour and flavour.

When broc­coli is cheap and plen­ti­ful it’s a good veg­etable to freeze, but you’ll need to blanch it first. To do this, drop the flo­rets into a big pot of lightly salted boil­ing wa­ter for one minute, then cool them down as fast as you can by drain­ing them through a sieve, rins­ing with cold wa­ter and then chill­ing in iced wa­ter. Shake out all the mois­ture (a salad spin­ner works well for this) be­fore bag­ging and freez­ing. Date, la­bel and use within six months.

This week’s recipes show the ver­sa­til­ity of this vi­ta­min-su­per­charged veg­etable.

BROC­COLI AND BA­CON PO­LENTA BAKE

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