Broccoli 101: How to buy and store broccoli, plus 12 recipes

Russ Parsons
The California Cook

Here’s one way I know it’s fall at my house: I’ve started making broccoli pasta. It’s my cool-weather staple, as much a part of our rainy months as tomato pasta is for the summer.

I think I could fill an entire cookbook only with recipes for broccoli pasta. I sometimes make it just with garlic and oil, sometimes with Italian sausage, sometimes with salted anchovies and pistachios and raisins. Give me a head of broccoli and a bag of dried pasta and I can eat for a week.

Broccoli comes in many forms these days. In addition to the familiar tree-shaped standard broccoli, you can find slender broccoli rabe (sometimes called broccoli di rape). Its look-alikes include Chinese broccoli (gai lan), baby broccoli, broccolini and the gorgeous, fractal romanesco broccoli.

One thing that’s often overlooked with broccoli of all types is that they taste just as good cooked until they’re soft and falling apart as they do when they’re crisp. Maybe better, in some ways. Longer cooking brings out subtleties in broccoli’s flavor that aren’t apparent when it’s merely quickly blanched.

Just to be clear: I'm not talking about cooking these the way your grandma might have done. You don't need to boil them into stinking sulfurous submission to get this effect. Try adding just another minute or two to the cooking time and I think you'll be surprised by the difference.

How to choose: There are two things to look for when shopping for broccoli: The heads should be tight and compact and the flower buds should be closed, with no sign of bright yellow flowers (especially problematic at this time of year when cool weather can suddenly turn scorching for a couple of days, pushing plants into overdrive). Also check the stems. The peel can be thick but it shouldn't be woody (try to pierce it with your fingernail).

How to store: Store broccoli tightly wrapped in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

Click through the photo gallery above for some broccoli recipes. 

Are you a food geek? Follow me on Twitter @russ_parsons1

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