November 17, 2004
Broccoli, whose name comes from the Latin word "to branch," is packed with vitamin C and potassium with a fair amount of vitamin A, iron and folic acid. Several members of the broccoli brigade also share its nutritional punch.
"Green" broccoli can be white or purple and its flowers yellow, with firm stalks and tightly packed florets.
Broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, looks like cauliflower that’s been dipped in broccolicolored paint.
Broccoli rabe, also called Italian broccoli, has thin green stems that are much more tender than broccoli, with soft, velvety leaves and a small amount of floret.
Broccolini, which hit the American produce scene about five years ago, is a cross between Swiss chard and Asian broccoli.
The more familiar type of broccoli should resemble miniature, bright green trees. Look for the thinner stalks with no flowers. Thick stalks and flowers indicate a certain amount of toughness.
Cook broccoli quickly, as it is a cabbage, given to strong flavors if exposed to heat for too long. The stalks can be peeled and used in stir-fries, salads and even in coleslaw instead of the "cole " (cabbage).
Broccoflower has a combined taste of cauliflower and broccoli and is prepared like cauliflower. When selecting broccoflower, look for lightly colored heads with no mold.
To cook broccoflower, slice or break off the florets, wash them and then steam or microwave quickly. Broccoflower appreciates a spicy curry sauce. Or serve broccoflower florets uncooked, with a hummus or salsa dip.
Broccoli rabe is slightly bitter and tangy, very popular in Mediterranean cuisine. The stalks are milder than the leaves, so look for specimens having more stalk than leaf. A bit of floret is OK, but a lot of flowering means the rabe is older and will be tougher. Steam or microwave broccoli rabe, or quickly sauté or stir fry. Serve it tossed with lemon or pepper or a mild cream sauce. You can add broccoli rabe to pasta, potatoes or combine it with mild vegetables, such as tomatoes or carrots.
Broccolini, though not related to asparagus, can be prepared in much the same way — that is, you steam or microwave it quickly, toss it with a small amount of oil and herbs, and serve.
Broccolini can also be quickly grilled or sauteed.
Store all the broccoli buddies the same way — unwrapped and unwashed in refrigerator until ready to use.