Love it or hate it, broccoli is part of our vegetarian rotation all year long. But this time of year is when the heads—actually large flowering heads that we eat before they bloom—are especially sweet and tender, with tight, bright-green to dusty-blue clusters.
As a crop, broccoli goes back to the Roman Empire. It was introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants in the 19th century. Hearty, easy to grow, and prolific, broccoli has become a year-round staple.
Broccoli can be steamed, sautéed, and roasted, an essential side dish for roasted chicken, steak, and salmon. It lends itself well to soups and chowders, as well as stir-fries and casseroles. Sure, you can use it to make brownies, as Jessica Seinfeld does, but I prefer to keep it on the savory side of cooking. Outside of the kitchen, I have even used broccoli as part of a centerpiece for the table, posing as whimsical trees.
In the market, look for broccoli with tightly packed florets that are bright or dark green in color. Avoid broccoli heads that are yellowing or blemished.
These recipes use broccoli in three ways—roasted, steamed, and stir-fried and stirred into pasta—to showcase its versatility. Oven-roasted florets are crispy and naturally salty, without any salt added, perfect served with a lemony hollandaise sauce to dip. An onion and broccoli frittata, which calls for the broccoli to be lightly steamed first, is a rustic dish perfect for a weekend lunch. Finally, sautéed florets are stirred into a one-pot pasta along with bacon and fried garlic, a delectable mixture of crispy, salty, and smoky for a no-fuss mid-week supper.
If all you’ve known is mushy, boiled-to-death broccoli, these recipes will have you looking at the vegetable in a completely different light.