Recipes: 3 ways to bring out the full flavor of broccoli

Sturdy stalks support umbrella clusters of tightly shut buds. Often, children say that broccoli resembles trees. Adults who have become fans see it as a verdant vitamin powerhouse, a veg that is a versatile star, delicious in soups, stir-fries, and salads. And pasta dishes, grain concoctions and sheet-pan roasts too.

When buying broccoli, look for those with tightly closed buds that are uniformly green. If leaves are present, they should be green not yellow. Stalk bottoms should be green as well. Often at supermarkets, broccoli is wet from frequent sprays of water. I give it a good shake before it goes into my take-home bag. And when I get home, I put one sheet of paper towel into the plastic bag under the broccoli and store it in the fridge, unwashed, for up to 5 days.

As green vegetables go, it’s hard to beat broccoli for the amount and variety of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Yes, and cooked with an eye on building flavor, it can be delectable. Yes, there are those who eschew its charm. For those, I suggest substituting its mild-mannered cousin, cauliflower.

Roasted and Toasted Broccoli Bliss is made by placing broccoli florets coated in panko and cheese toppings on to a pre-heated baking sheet. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Roasted and Toasted Broccoli Bliss

Heating a rimmed baking sheet in a hot oven before adding the broccoli ensures that the veg will have just-right texture and appealing caramelized edges. In this dish the generous ratio of crunchy panko and cheese topping to roasted broccoli is beguiling.

Yield: 4 servings


1 1/4 pounds broccoli florets with about 1-inch of stem

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


1. Adjust one oven rack to upper-middle position and another rack about 6- to 8-inches below broiler element. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the lower middle rack and preheat oven to 400 degrees. In the time it takes the oven to heat, the sheet pan will get sizzling hot.

2. Toss broccoli florets with olive oil and salt in a medium-size bowl. Turn the broccoli out onto the hot sheet pan (it should sizzle) and roast in middle rack until the bottom of the florets are nicely browned, about 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, combine the butter and garlic in a small ovenproof dish and place it in oven until the butter melts, 5 minutes. (Alternatively, combine them in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high power in 15-second increments, swirling between each, until the butter melts, 45 seconds to 1 minute.)

4. Place breadcrumbs in medium-size bowl, add the butter-garlic mixture, and toss with a fork. Add cheeses and toss to combine.

5. Remove sheet pan from oven and sprinkle broccoli with cheesy bread crumb mixture. Turn on the broiler element. Place the sheet pan on the upper rack. Broil until the cheese is melted and browned, 1 to 2 minutes (watch the breadcrumbs closely to prevent burning). Remove from the oven, transfer to a platter, making sure to scrape up all the crispy, crunchy cheesy bits (it’s best to use a thin, flexible metal spatula). Serve.

Source: “Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight from the Oven” by Raquel Pelzel (Workman, $16.95)

Broccoli, Beef and Brown Rice Combo features slices of grilled sirloin. (Photo by Nick Koon)

 Broccoli, Beef and Brown Rice Combo

Bejeweled with colorful vegetables and slices of perfectly grilled steak, this classic broccoli-beef combination gets an irresistible makeover in this one-bowl meal. The fragrant brown rice-vegetable mixture is lightly napped with a tangy peanut dressing before a topping of thinly sliced steak is added. Get the prep started in advance to allow time for marination.

Yield: 6 servings


2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey

1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 pound boneless sirloin steak

1 cup raw long-grain brown rice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vegetable oil or canola oil

2 medium carrots, peeled, sliced on diagonal 1/4-inch thick

1 3/4 cups broccoli florets

3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil

Garnish: 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, see cook’s notes

Optional garnish: Chopped cilantro

Cook’s notes: To toast sesame seeds, place in small skillet on medium-high heat. Shake handle to redistribute seeds, cooking until lightly browned. Remove from heat, place seeds on rimmed plate and cool.


1. Set a large zipper-style plastic bag in bowl to hold it upright. Add garlic, soy sauce, agave syrup or honey, sesame oil and vinegar. Poke steak at 1-inch intervals with tines of fork. Add steak to bag with marinade and seal. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours, turning bag occasionally to redistribute marinade.

2. Prepare rice: In a 3-quart saucepan place rice, 2 1/4 cups water, salt and oil. Bring to boil on high heat; stir once. Cover with tight fitting lid; reduce heat to low and gently simmer 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove lid and fluff rice with fork.

3. Meanwhile, bring about 5 cups of water to boil on high heat in large saucepan. Add carrots and cook until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Add broccoli and cook in boiling water until tender-crisp, about 6 to 7 minutes. Drain and set aside. Heat grill.

4. Prepare sauce: In medium bowl, stir peanut butter and 3 tablespoons hot water to combine. Add vinegar, soy sauce, chili flakes and sesame oil; stir vigorously to combine. Place rice in large bowl; add sauce and vegetables. Toss. Taste and add salt if needed. Set aside at room temperature.

5. Remove steak from marinade; discard marinade. Grill over medium-high heat about 3 minutes on each side; cooking times vary depending on degree of doneness preferred, heat of fire and thickness of steak. Set steak aside on cutting board and allow to rest 5 minutes. Slice steak into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Spoon rice salad into 6 bowls. Top with steak slices and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. If desired, garnish with cilantro.

Source: “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce” by Cathy Thomas (Wiley, $29.95)

Soy sauce, hoisin sauce and dried red chili flakes boost the flavor profile of Broccoli-Tofu Stir-Fry. (Photo by Angie Cao)

Broccoli-Tofu Stir-Fry

Soy sauce, hoisin sauce and dried red chili flakes boost the flavor profile of this quick stir-fried dish. Be sure to have all the components ready and set next to the stove before you start to cook. The mixture is delicious served over cooked rice, quinoa or farro.

Yield: 6 servings


1/2 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 tablespoon sodium-reduced soy sauce

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Pinch dried red chili flakes

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 pound extra-firm tofu

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil

1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Nonstick spray

3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded (or used to prepare broth for future use), cut into 1/4-inch wide slices (other fresh mushrooms may be substituted if fresh shiitake are not available)

2 1/2 cups small broccoli florets, about 1 1/2-inches long

3 green onions, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch slices, including half of dark green stalks

1 large clove garlic, minced

Optional for serving: cooked quinoa, rice or farro


1. In a small bowl, combine broth, soy sauce, hoisin, chili flakes and cornstarch. Stir to combine and set next to stove.

2. Drain tofu and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 1-inch cubes. In a bowl, gently toss tofu with sesame seeds. Heat oils in wok or large, deep nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add sesame-coated tofu cubes and stir-fry until nicely browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer tofu to plate.

3. Spray skillet with nonstick spray and return to medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and stir-fry until softened, about 4 minutes. Add broccoli and stir-fry until broccoli is tender-crisp, about 4 minutes, adding a tablespoon of water if mixture seems too dry. Add onions and garlic; stir-fry about 30 seconds. Stir broth mixture add to broccoli mixture. Cook, gently stirring until sauce thickens. Add tofu and gently toss. If desired, serve spooned over rice, quinoa or farro.

Source: “50 Best Plants on the Planet” by Cathy Thomas (Chronicle, $29.95)

Have a cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at

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