By Louise Oliver
Broccoli … summertime you say? Yes I do. A bounty of broccoli is upon us this fine hot summer, (see Project Broccoli) armed with a treasure trove of taste. Cast aside those memories of over cooked, foul tasting mush that may have been served on your plate, alongside meat and potatoes, in the school dinner hall. Gone too are the days when broccoli was simply a veg banished to winter fare. This summer broccoli is big, bold and bursting with benefits.
Broccoli has been given super food status by many, and it is easy to see why. It boasts an impressive array of health giving properties: with vitamin C in abundance, boosting the immune system; vitamin K, which promotes bone health; alongside folate and fibre. If that was not impressive enough, broccoli also contains an array of minerals and phytochemicals- which are believed to have anti-cancer effects, aid inflammation and have been linked to a reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease.
In order to preserve this impressive bundle of nutrients, broccoli requires very little in the way of cooking. Simple steaming, sautéing or stir frying are all that is required in the kitchen, allowing you to save time and energy also. Just remember: too long spent in pools of water and this vibrant vegetable will quickly fade.
It is not only the flowering heads that provide a delicious taste, if broccoli is picked young enough the stems are particularly juicy and sweet and can be enjoyed raw or lightly steamed- though thicker shorter stalks should not be discarded as they are surprisingly tender too. Raw broccoli, picked straight out of the garden in slender stems, adds a delicious crunch to a salad or as a crudité dipped in hummus.
As the warmer weather is here, light fare is a must and the nutrients, colour and texture of broccoli provide a perfect centre piece to your salad. The beautiful thing about seasonal greens such as this, is that they are eager to get together with big flavours. Vinegars, mustard, fresh herbs, quality oil and seasonings can make a big difference in taking something simple to the next level as in this Broccoli Summer Salad.
It is rare for the heat of the oven to be required on hot days, but make an exception for this pizza. Char grilling on the barbecue or in the oven alongside thinly sliced new potatoes and some fresh rosemary is Broccoli and Rosemary Pizza, the perfect dish for al fresco dining.
Broccoli particularly shines when combined with the holy trilogy of soy, ginger and chilli. All that is required is a quick minute or two in the steamer, followed by a couple of minutes in the wok alongside Pittenweem prawns in this Broccoli, Prawn and Pak Choi stir fry, and a satisfying supper awaits.
As the sun is shining, broccoli is a must on the menu, but don’t just take my word for it, go on, treat yourself and your tastebuds to some Broccoli Summer Time.