26 November 2011

Why is it that broccoli has such a bad reputation? It’s a great little vegetable really. Yet its good name has been besmirched for generations, even by US presidents.

Yep, you may recall the travails of George Bush Snr who, when asked about his dining habits at State functions, insisted that his mother had made him eat broccoli every day when he was a child. As such, now that he was President of the United States no one was going to make him touch the stuff!

Harsh words indeed, and they landed him in more than a spot of bother. USCBGA (the common acronym for the United States Commercial Broccoli Growers Alliance, as I’m sure you know) threatened to sue the President for defaming their product, claiming that sales had dropped by 6% in the weeks immediately following the incident.

In the end it all ended happily. The President apologised and ate broccoli bread at a California farm for the news cameras. He reckoned he even enjoyed it.

It’s not just broccoli that polarises consumers. Pretty much all the members of the Brassicae family get the same treatment: cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage. But the fault lies not with the veg itself, but more usually with the cook.

To cook broccoli well you must treat it like a great romance. Do not pursue too much, let her come to you.

Gentle steaming, or even microwaving on medium power, will bring out the best flavour without the slight ammoniation that comes from exposure to high heat. It is one of the vegetables that really should have some crispness left when served. If it is softened through the flavour will have diminished and the florets may have become mushy.

Broccoli is available all year round, but autumn is its best season. You want to look for heads that are dark green with firm, crisp florets. The cut point on the stem should still be moist and slightly sticky. Broccoli shouldn’t be stored more than a couple of days in the fridge, but if you need to store it, leave some airholes in the bag so that it doesn’t sweat.
Broccoli bread

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