Monday, September 17, 2012

SHH - Broccoli

This chapter on broccoli is going to be short and bitter. I promised myself I'd eat each of the fourteen SuperFoods in the SuperFoods Rx book, and this was the one that gave me the most grief. If you like broccoli, consider yourself very lucky. I wish I just liked it. Anyway, I have found a way I can eat it, so  if you think you don't like broccoli, there's hope for you too.

I know I'm not alone. According to the SuperFoods Rx book: "About 25 percent of the population inherit an aversion to the bitter taste of cruciferous vegetables. If this describes you, add salt, since that makes them taste sweeter. Use them in a stir-fry with low-sodium soy sauce or add them to casseroles and lasagnes."

Nope. That doesn't work. But, I tried. I also tried deep frying broccoli. I'd seen an episode of Top Chef where Michael Voltaggio made "Broccoli Popcorn" because he had hated broccoli as a kid. I think this might have worked if I'd found his process sooner. He first blanched the broccoli, then dehydrated it, then fried it at 400 degrees. I tried it, but only deep fried it. It was a horrible fiasco and my husband, who does like broccoli, didn't like it. The problem was that if you fry it long enough to get crisp, it takes on a burnt flavor. Anyway, I still had to find a way to be able to eat broccoli.

Or, one of the sidekicks: Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, turnips, cauliflower, collards, bok choy, mustard greens, Swiss chard

Why is Broccoli a SuperFood (to my chagrin)? Well, it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods known and is an excellent source of vegetarian iron. And, Broccoli contains:

Sulforaphane
Indoles
Folate
Fiber
Calcium
Vitamin C
Beta-carotene
Lutein/zeaxanthin
Vitamin K

I think it's the sulfur that makes it so unpalatable to me. The smell of it cooking ruins it. From the book:
"The sulfur compounds in cruciferous vegetables are a major reason these foods are such powerful cancer preventive foods. The strong smell that broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables share comes from the sulfur compounds that protect the plant as well as you. The strong sometimes bitter taste and smell of these vegetables protect them from insects and animals." Hmmm, even the animals are turned off by it, so how can a picky eater like me be tempted.

Did you know? Sprouts = "Super Broccoli. This is especially good news for those few people - particularly children - who refuse to eat broccoli." (By the way, the book said those "few" people, but I don't feel like 25% of the population is so "few")

Here are a few random tips from the book:

If buying fresh, look for younger broccoli. Older broccoli can be tough and have a strong odor.

The carotenoids as well as other nutrients are concentrated in the florets, as opposed to the stalk. Broccoli leaves have even more carotenoids than the florets.

Shred brussel sprouts and stir-fry them with minced garlic, olive oil, some coarsely chopped toasted walnuts or pin nuts, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Toss with pasta.

Coat cut-up broccoli or cauliflower with a little olive oil and salt. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. The vegetables become sweet and intense.

And this is something I have done. I have actually successfully "hidden" cabbage in a meat loaf. Yes, I really did. Shred the cabbage really finely, or use a food processor. Use about a cup for a regular sized meat loaf (this also works with meat balls). It will help keep the meatloaf moist, and you will never tasted it. I swear. I wouldn't lie about something like this.

Now, for the big reveal. Remember how I said I found a way to eat broccoli? Well, one day I was at my mom's house and we were watching an episode of The Pioneer Woman and she made Broccoli Cheese Soup. It's very pureed and very cheesy, and I said "I might actually be able to eat that". Well, not only did I eat it, I loved it!

I followed her recipe pretty closely, but I did make a few changes. I didn't use a whole onion. I thought that might be too overpowering for me. I happened to have some fresh thyme and rosemary, so I threw some of that in. I think the rosemary in particular helped to mask any bitterness from the broccoli. I used part frozen broccoli florets and part Green Giant Fresh Sweet Baby Broccoli (the label says it's a cross between broccoli and Chinese Kale). In doing so, I didn't know how to equate this to the four heads of broccoli her recipe called for. I weighed what I used, and it was just under 3 oz, so I may have been a bit timid, but it turned out good. And next time I'll know I could go further with it. Finally, the cheese. Her recipe calls for 3 Cups. I used an entire 8 oz block of Cracker Barrel Sharp Cheddar. I like to use sharp cheddars in soups and things where the cheese is completely melty. I think you get more cheese flavor that way. Once melted, the cheese gets milder. Oh, and since that didn't actually come to three cups when I grated it, I threw in a big spoonful (ok, more than that) of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Oh, and I found that I didn't need the optional chicken broth for thinning. It was the perfect creaminess without it.

Onion, butter, flour, whole milk, half and half, nutmeg, thyme, rosemary, pepper, salt, cheese, cream cheese. Oh yeah, and broccoli. 

It almost looks pretty. 

Store-bought bread for a bread bowl. Cut a little bit off the end so it will stand up. 

Then cut your bowl sized piece. 

Carve out a bowl from the middle. Feel free to eat the stuff you remove. Butter it and bake it for about five minutes at 375. 

Spoon in your soup and garnish with more cheese. 


And that, my friends, is how I managed to actually eat broccoli. I went back for seconds after this. It was too good!

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