Reader's Digest


- Brassica oleraceas

Preheat oven to 425°. Trim the stalks of two 8-ounce broccoli crowns, removing any tough or dried exterior, then cut crowns into quarters from top to bottom. Drizzle with 3 tablespoon­s extravirgi­n olive oil; sprinkle all over, to taste, with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Arrange broccoli on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, then roast until crisp-tender, 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, thinly slice 4 medium garlic cloves and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Sprinkle the broccoli with garlic and roast until garlic is just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle broccoli all over with 2 tablespoon­s freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese and roast until cheese is melted and broccoli stalks are tender, 2-4 minutes. Toss with 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest and serve. qualities. We are the same. Our variants have been through selective breeding, having been chosen to accentuate different features of the plant—in the same way that a bulldog was bred to have extra wrinkly skin and a greyhound to be lean and lithe.

Broccoli was selected specifical­ly for its stem and flower buds. All those little green balls that make up the florets are tiny buds waiting to open into flowers. The thick stalk is the stem of the plant, and in broccoli it’s nice and fleshy, albeit a little tough on the outside.

Breed the same plant and instead select for a single large bud at the top of the stalk, and you get cabbage. If you breed for really nice tender leaves, you get kale or collards. Breeding for pronounced lateral buds (those buds in the cross sections of my stem) results in brussels sprouts, which grow like little cabbages up and down the stalk. Breed solely for the fleshiest, juiciest stalk, and you get kohlrabi. Our sulfurous smell (worse with cabbage and brussels sprouts, though we all have it) is thanks to chemical compounds called glucosinol­ates. They are thought to be protective against cancer and inflammato­ry diseases, but because they contain the element sulfur, they’re also responsibl­e for that farty smell that has likely made me the butt of many political

jokes. Glucosinol­ates are part of my plant defense system. They’re not bad-smelling or bitter if you leave me alone, but when you damage my cells, they break down and release their funk.

The more you increase cell damage, the more you get these smells. So the more you chop me, the more I’ll smell. Same with cooking me slowly at a low temp for a long time. The key to avoiding that is fast cooking—blanching me by plunging me into boiling water, roasting me at high heat (hotter than 450 degrees), or charring me over hot coals. That high heat shuts down the conversion of the glucosinol­ates into the pungent smells, reducing the stink output.

One last piece of advice for handling me in the kitchen: Don’t waste my stem! Sometimes the skin on my stem is tough, but once trimmed or lightly peeled, the stem itself is delicious. Crisp, refreshing, and mild, it can be served raw in a salad—cut my stem down to pieces the size of my florets to use all of me. Because, while I may be a political vegetable, the left and the right can likely come together over making the most of what we’ve got.

Kate Lowenstein is a health journalist and the editor-in-chief at Vice; Daniel Gritzer is the culinary director of the cooking site Serious Eats.

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