Food of the Week: Broccoli

In preparing this column I could not help thinking several times about President George H. W. Bush’s notorious dislike of broccoli. As a broccoli fan and a non-fan of President Bush, I was  accordingly annoyed at myself. It would be nice if someone famous and respected stepped up and defended broccoli in a big, splashy way. On the other hand, my populist side says, fine, famous people can love or hate broccoli as much as they want. Meanwhile, the rest of us can quietly support it by buying it and eating it and feeding it to our children and friends.

I’m sure none of you need me to tell you that broccoli is good for you, but indulge my sharing briefly why scientists and nutritionists think this is so. According to the American Cancer Society’s website, “broccoli appears promising as an excellent food for preventing cancer,” though it is unknown “whether the phytochemicals in broccoli have benefit on their own or whether it is the vitamin C, beta carotene, folate, and other compounds, working together and in the right quantities, that might protect people against cancer.” Broccoli is indeed very high in vitamin C, as well as vitamin K. It is also a good source of fiber and certain minerals and low in sugar, and even provides three grams of protein per one-cup serving (raw). Bottom line: it’s really healthy. And delicious, as I hope you will discover or reaffirm by trying these recipes.

Illona’s Broccoli

My mother’s friend Illona introduced this simple recipe to our family.

Steam whatever amount of broccoli pieces you want, just until crisp-tender. Put on a plate and drizzle liberally with lemon juice and olive oil.

Broccoli Pesto Pizzas

This Prevention magazine recipe makes four servings (eight pizzas).

1 c. packed small broccoli florets
2 cloves garlic
 c. basil leaves or 2 t. dried basil
1  T. olive oil
1  T. lemon juice
1/3 c. grated Parmesan
2 T. chopped walnuts
 t. salt
4 mini whole wheat pitas
 c. chopped roasted red pepper
 c. shredded mozzarella

1) Preheat oven to 375°. Place broccoli and garlic in microwaveable bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high 45 seconds. Place in food processor with basil, oil, lemon juice, 2 T. water, Parmesan, walnuts, and salt. Process until smooth.
2) Cut around edge of pitas, and split in half. Place on baking sheet, rough side down, and bake 8 minutes. Turn over and spread with pesto (about 1  T. each). Top with roasted pepper and mozzarella. Bake 8 minutes, or until heated through.

Curried Broccoli

I enjoyed both versions of this, one with red curry paste and one with curry powder, but I slightly preferred the latter version. Adapted from Real Simple magazine.

2  T. olive oil
 bunch broccoli, finely chopped (1  c.) 
2  t. curry powder or 1 T. red curry paste
1  c. canned chickpeas, rinsed
1/3 c. golden or dark raisins
 c. couscous

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the curry powder or paste, chickpeas, raisins, 1 c. water, and  t. salt and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let steam 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Taste and add additional salt if desired.

Linguine with
Broccoli Sauce

1 t. salt, plus extra for seasoning
1 large head broccoli, cut into florets
1 lb. linguine, preferably whole grain
 c. pine nuts or walnuts
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 c. chicken broth
1/3 c. plus 1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, minced
Black pepper
4 T. grated Parmesan
 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (opt.)

1) Cook the linguine until al dente; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add 1 t. salt, broccoli, and garlic cloves. Cook for 1 minute. Remove the broccoli and garlic with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and set aside.
2) Place the broccoli and garlic in a food processor or blender. Add the nuts, lemon zest and juice, broth, and 1/3 c. of the oil. Puree.
3) Heat the remaining 1 T. oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the broccoli sauce and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the linguine and toss to coat. Top servings with Parmesan and parsley.

Broccoli and
Cheddar Soup

Comforting while providing good nutrients like vitamins, fiber, and protein. I’ve made this with whole wheat flour, and though the appearance looks speckled, the taste and texture don’t suffer in any way. Submitted by Pam Anderson on

 c. butter
1 onion, cut into medium dice
2 t. garlic powder
 t. black or white pepper
1 lb. fresh or frozen chopped broccoli
1 quart chicken broth
 c. flour
1  c. milk
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar
Salt to taste

Melt butter over medium heat in a stockpot. Cook the onion in butter until softened. Add the garlic powder and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, then stir in the broccoli and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer until broccoli is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Whisk the flour into the milk until dissolved and stir into soup, stirring frequently until thickened. Reduce heat and stir in cheese until melted and heated through. Season with salt to taste.