Saturday, May 16, 2015

Vegetable Techniques - Cooking Broccoli


Broccoli is a great vegetable in that it is pretty easy to prepare and has a mild flavor. I like to use a two step cooking method that starts with quickly blanching it in boiling water, this helps to soften the florets and makes them turn a brilliant bright green color.  Then after draining, I add the broccoli to a saute pan with some olive oil, minced garlic and salt and do a very short saute to complete the cooking process and create more flavor. 

When choosing broccoli in the store, look for a nice even green color with no blemishes or yellow spots. The broccoli stem should feel firm, soft stems or limp florets are a sign the vegetable is getting old. Store broccoli in the crisper drawer of the fridge until you are ready to use it. Broccoli should keep fairly well for about one week.

Ingredients
1 to 2 large heads broccoli
salt
olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced

Equipment
A paring knife
Cutting board
Pot for boiling water
Strainer
Saute pan
Spatula or tongs

Procedure1. Trimming into florets - Slice straight through the broccoli stem as close to the crown as you can get, just where the larger stem starts to break into smaller stems. 
The crown should break into several large florets. Cut through the "trunk" of each floret to make pieces that are all about the same size.

Place these in a small bowl and run them under water to wash away any grit.

2. Blanching - Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.   If the pot is big enough to fit all the vegetables where they can be submerged, then place them all in at once. If the vegetables wont all fit without being crammed, do half at a time. 

Add a tsp of salt and the broccoli florets and cook until just tender, about 1 to 1 1/2  minutes. 

NOTE:  This is the subjective part of the cooking process. You might like your broccoli really crisp and al dente, or maybe you want it more cooked and soft. The general rule here is to grab a fork and pierce a piece of the broccoli to see how cooked it is, and take it out of the water when it is done to your liking. For me, just as the water starts to come back to a boil, the broccoli is perfect, which is about 1 to 2 minutes from when the vegetables went into the pot.  (The broccoli will only cook slightly more in the saute pan)

Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a colander.
Place pot back on the stove and bring the water back to a boil.  Repeat steps with the remaining broccoli if needed. 

3. Sauteing - here is where the flavor comes in.
Place a non-stick saute pan over medium high heat. Once hot (about 30 seconds later), add some olive oil, this is about 1 tablespoon. 
Add the minced garlic and let sizzle about 10 seconds, not too long, just enough for the garlic to impart its flavor out into the oil.
Add the blanched broccoli florets to the pan and toss to distribute the olive oil and garlic.  Sprinkle with a little salt, and then taste. Because you salted the cooking water, this may not need very much salt. Taste and add more if desired. 
Place on a plate or bowl and serve. 

I also like to sprinkle the broccoli with a little red pepper flakes. This is how my favorite Italian restaurant back on the East Coast used to serve it. Although theirs was dripping in olive oil and had enough garlic to ward off any vampires. 
Serve and Enjoy!

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