Maybe it’s time for broccoli to break character. It’s been the good-guy poster child for healthful eating for so long that it’s become the reflex whipping boy for anyone who wants to act out a little bit. Maybe what broccoli really needs at this point in its career is to appear in a dish that is rich with fat, salty as the sea and so utterly, irredeemably bad for you that we’ll never again think of that horrid diet plate of a plain steamed stem.
I'm afraid that's just going to have to wait, though. Broccoli is so good just on its own that it doesn't need that kind of culinary lily gilding to make it better. 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.
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.