If broccoli were a tree, it would be an oak, guardian of the vegetable forest. Since the Roman Empire, it has served legions of Italians as a dependable and surprisingly versatile element of the culinary landscape.
Why then, stateside, is it so thoroughly misunderstood? Mostly, bad preparation. If there’s one way to make a lifelong enemy of broccoli, it’s by cooking it into mushy, army-green oblivion—a sight many of us are still trying to erase from our childhood memories.
One of the best ways to keep it crisp is a quick steam (3 to 4 minutes) until it’s barely fork tender and a bright, emerald green. Then you’re ready for everything from stir-fries to pasta dishes to casseroles.
Still not convinced? Try cheese and broccoli, a great combo that creates some great gateway dishes for finicky children and spouses. Also, try roasting it, which brings out bold, caramelized flavors that can convert non-believers into lifelong fans.
—Story by Jim Myers, a food writer in Nashville, Tenn.