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fresh broccoli

  • b

I've decided to switch from frozen broccoli to fresh--but I don't know how to prepare it. Do I just stick in in boiling water? TIA!

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  1. You could do that or you might consider steaming it instead. Be careful to pull it out of the steamer when it is just barely fork tender; broccoli is one vegetable that can easily be overcooked in a few seconds.

    1. For a new-to-broccoli cook, you might think of it as two separate vegetables. The small buds at the top cook more quickly than the stems.

      At the market, choose broccoli with dark green heads, no yellow flowers showing. Those are a sign of age. You will see that the short stems attached to the florettes also attach to the main stalk. The stems should be firm, not flabby and soft.

      The stems/stalks are excellent, sliced in rounds or in slender lengthwise strips, quickly sauteed or steamed. Cooking time will be dictated by the size of the pieces -- try to keep them uniform.

      The florettes can also be steamed or sauteed, again uniform-sized pieces are desirable. If this is not possible, put the larger pieces in the pan a minute or so ahead of the smaller sized pieces. Florettes can also be quickly cooked in a skillet, drizzled with olive oil and cooked, covered, until tender. Raise the heat to brown, if desired.

      Leftover broccoli, cooled quickly, is excellent when finely chopped, mixed with a little heavy cream and gently re-warmed. Covered with buttered crumbs & grated Parmesan cheese browned under the broiler, it is a lovely gratin.

      NOTE: these recommendations are for "typical supermarket broccoli" and do not cover broccoli di raab or broccoflower. However you choose to prepare broccoli, do not overcook it. Check out some simple Italian recipes - they're usually dead-on.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Sherri

        Reference to Italian recipes is right on...Marcella Hazan has a lovely sauteed broccoli with garlic recipe that we do love also in her "Essentials" cookbook.

        1. re: Val

          Yes, Val, the Italians are Broccoli Masters! In addition to broccoli as a stand-alone vegetable, there are some interesting pasta sauces that use broccoli -- anchovies, garlic & Parmesan and another with pork, carrots & raisins in a sweet-sour sauce.

          Asian flavors work very well too. A basic broccoli-beef stir fry is in most cook's repetoire. We had a scallop-broccoli salad with sesame-citrus-soy dressing last week that was a happy accident. Never know what will happen with clean-out-the-refrigerator dinners!

        2. re: Sherri

          This is a terrific primer for preparing broccoli, Sherri. The fat stalks are my favorite part of this vegetable. I peel the first fibrous layer from these, before going on to cook them. I like them sliced raw into thin rounds for salads too. I bought some beautiful brocolli at my Mexican produce store today. Sixty-nine cents for a beautiful bunch!

          1. re: Pat Hammond

            Thank you for your kind words, Pat Hammond. I was afraid of overwhelming the new-to-broccoli cook with too much information but thought if there was some horrid mushy broccoli on the plate, the new adventure might come to a very quick halt. I forgot to mention the wisdom of peeling the stalk -- thanks for the "heads up" reminder.

          2. re: Sherri

            wow. what an incredibly useful post. thank you SO much!

            1. re: broc

              Glad the information helped and congratulations on your move away from frozen broccoli. Fresh broccoli is a completely different vegetable. Let us hear how your adventure goes -- there's always more information available from chowhounds.

            2. re: Sherri

              It's really easy to get into fancy stuff with broccoli, as I'm noticing with all these posts, but to me the great thing about it is how dirt-simple it is to cook - easier fresh, in fact, than frozen. If I get the heads with their stalks attached I cut those off, peel them, and cut them into sticks about 1/4" square and a couple of inches long. Then I cut the florets apart into more-or-less bitesize hunks, and put them and the stalk pieces into the top of my steamer. I salt this fairly liberally over the top, then cover this part while I bring two inches or so of water to boil in the bottom pan of the steamer. When it's at a rolling boil, I put the top part on and set the timer for about seven minutes. I serve it fresh from the steamer, or chilled with a vinaigrette, or sometimes spread into a gratin dish with cheese and panko crumbs over it and finished in a hot oven. Good however you do it.

              1. re: Will Owen

                Will, so glad you stressed the steaming method! So many Chowhound posts reguarding vegetables state: "place in plenty of salted boiling water" and I want to scream "No-o-o-o...."

                Fresh veggies are wonderful powerhouses of vitamins and minerals, but many many of these are WATER SOLUABLE and HEAT DAMAGED and they're simply drained away with the cooking water when veggies are boiled. (sure, you can save it for soup, but then you're heat it again) So we may be getting fiber, but losing all those lovely nutrients which our bodies need. IMO steaming, or a quick saute are the preferaable ways to cook fresh veggies.

                If you don't have waterless cookware, which cooks at below-steaming temps via forming a vacuum, metal steaming baskets or woven bamboo steamers are inexpensive, fit most cookware, and readily available to cooks everywhere.

                Please, dear chowhounds, if you are still boiling vegetables, DON'T, until you've tried steaming a few times. I guarantee you won't go back once you've tried it. The brightness of flavor and texture in your prepared veggies will win you over!

                1. re: toodie jane

                  AMEN!!! Well said. Steaming is extremely easy in the microwave as well. I place the florets, w/ an inch of stem attached, into a glass or china bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of water, cover with plastic wrap, and zap for a couple of minutes. Watch out for the steam when you uncover!
                  No excuse for not having your veggies!

            3. For a completely different taste, its also delicious roasted. Cut the broccoli into small florettes and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, pepper and chopped fresh garlic if you like it or garlic powder. Spread the broccoli in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet and bake in a hot oven 400-425 degrees for about 20-30 mins or just until the edges are very lightly bronzed. It comes out slightly crispy at the edges and very tasty...enjoy!

              1. I make it two ways. One is to roast, pretty much what the previous poster said except I roast it for only about 15 minutes at 425-450 degrees. Most often I prepare it this way:
                warm up some olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add broccoli florets and chopped stems (after slicing off the woody parts of the stem). Let cook for a few minutes, then add a few splashes of chicken broth/stock (I usually use Swanson's organic), a pinch of kosher salt and some pepper, turn the heat down to medium low and cover. Check it- it's ready when it's bright green and you can pierce the floret stem with a fork.

                1. n
                  Niki Rothman

                  3 ideas for you.

                  1) Cream of broc. soup.
                  Make a butter roux. Then add the following and mix well: finely diced broc., minced onion, garlic, dill, and small-diced potato in chicken broth.
                  When tender, mash a bit to break up the potatoes,
                  add sour cream and serve with minced chives or thin sliced scallions.

                  2) A tasty simple broc. salad:
                  Slice tender part of stems, cut florets into bite size pieces - steam until bright green, drain and cool with cold running water in colander. Shake off moisture.
                  Place in a bowl with thin sliced onion, sliced tomatoes, pitted greek olives.
                  Toss with a good vinagrette (evoo,red wine vin 1:1, dijon mustard, s & P, a little sugar, lotsa minced garlic - I keep a jar in the fridge)

                  3) (Tip o' the chowhound hat to Sarah Moulton of the Food Network)
                  Broccoli Sausage Pasta:
                  Brown sausage (I use hot Italian turkey) that you have squeezed out of the casings and broken into 1" pieces in olive oil with sliced onions and garlic.
                  Add broccoli florets and sliced tender stems. Fry until tender but not hammered. Add hot chicken broth to deglaze pan, plus enough to make a sauce (a cup maybe). Add plenty of lemon zest. Add well drained very al dente linguine or fetucini and cook a bit to absorb the sauce until al dente - done to your taste.
                  To serve: top with plenty of fresh parmesan.

                  1. There is an expensive broccoli variant for sale under the name of Brockly-Wockly. If you follow their lead, do this: cut off the florets with a bit of stalk. Divide into separate chunks. Put them in plastic bag. Add just a couple of spoonfuls of water. Twist the bag very tightly shut by twirling five or six times then lay bag in a pie plate or similar dish so that it's lying on its own folded top and you don't have to use a twistem. Poke a few holes in the bag. Microwave for 2-4 minutes depending on how done you want the broccoli. Much better this way than cooked in water. Good with lemon juice.