There couldn't be a more fitting food than broccoli to usher in the seasonal shift.
The cruciferous cousin of hardy vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale, brocco — in Italian — means to sprout. Jump back one more language, and the Latin word brachium translates to arm or branch.
Bright green stalks of broccoli signify growth after a season matted in snow and ice. While Minnesota growers won't be harvesting their first crop until at least mid-May, the produce aisles are peppered with broccoli from warm-weather climates year-round.
Broccoli was first cultivated in Italy and Cyprus more than 2,500 years ago. It migrated to England a century later, and was — at that time — called Italian asparagus. Despite being one of the oldest cabbages in agriculture, broccoli wasn't introduced to the culinary world until the 17th century, shortly after cauliflower. Today there are several kinds: Green Comet, Cruiser, Green Goliath, Romanesco, Chinese, Rabe. But more likely than not, you see stalks of Calabrese at your grocery store.
This flowering green stalk didn't gain popularity in the United States until after World War II, when soldiers returned from Europe with a new affinity for the vegetable from their time abroad. Now, nearly 80 years later, the U.S. is the world's third-highest producer of broccoli, and it's one of the most consumed vegetables in the country.
Broccoli is a heavy-hitting nutritional powerhouse. High in vitamins A and C and phytonutrients, it is said to help fight cancer, detoxify your liver and clear caffeine. In other words, it's always a good idea to add more broccoli to your plate.
We can guess what image comes to mind when picturing a serving of broccoli: A big bowl of florets, plunged into hot water until they change from ashen to Kelly green. Or maybe you associate broccoli as the consolation prize in the side-dish competition on kids' menus, the go-to filler for omelets or the second addition — after protein — to a hot wok.
But why limit broccoli to an accessory when it's delicious and healthy enough to warrant being the star of your meal? Here are three ways to work broccoli into your dishes this week.
One of curry's best traits is its ability to make any ingredient shine, from paneer to broccoli. From Alyssa Shultis.
• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1 small yellow onion, chopped
• 2 carrots, chopped
• 1 red bell pepper, chopped
• 1 tbsp. curry powder
• 1 tsp. dried turmeric
• 1 c. scallions, sliced
• 1 (13.5-oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk
• 1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 c. broccoli florets
• Cooked rice or grain of your choice
• Lime wedges, for garnish
• Cilantro, chopped, for garnish
In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and cook until translucent.
Add carrots and bell pepper, stirring to combine. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add curry powder and turmeric, stir until vegetables are coated. Add scallions, saving a few for garnish.
Mix in coconut milk and diced tomatoes with their juices. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low until the mixture is down to a simmer. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes until it thickens. Add broccoli for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Meanwhile, prepare your rice or grain.
To serve, divide rice onto plates or bowls. Ladle curry over the rice, then garnish with a squeeze of lime, remaining scallions and chopped cilantro.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Pesto doesn't need to be limited to basil and pine nuts. Boost its flavor and nutrition by adding broccoli. From Alyssa Shultis.
• 1 c. broccoli florets
• 1 c. loosely packed basil leaves, stems removed, plus small leaves for garnish
• 2 cloves garlic, divided
• 1/4 c. walnuts
• 1/4 c. shredded Parmesan
• Big pinch of sea salt and pepper
• 1/4 c. olive oil
• Lemon juice
• Quality loaf of bread with crusty exterior
Fill a small saucepan with about 2 inches of salted water and bring to a boil.
Once water is boiling, drop broccoli florets in. Blanch for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon. Let cool.
Add 1 cup of loosely packed basil leaves to a food processor or blender. Add cooled broccoli, 1 garlic clove, walnuts, Parmesan and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
Blend ingredients until they create a grainy paste, then, with the food processor running, stream in olive oil until it turns smooth.
Toast a thick slice of bread on a griddle or pan set to medium-high heat until the exterior begins to turn golden brown. Halve the remaining clove of garlic and rub it across the toasted bread.
Smear the desired amount of pesto on the bread. Add a squeeze of lemon and small basil leaves for garnish.
Store remaining pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze in small portions for up to six months.
Roasted Broccoli Wrap
This plant-forward wrap inspired by flavors from Greece packs well for a weekday lunch or a light dinner. From Alyssa Shultis.
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes
• 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• 1 c. broccoli florets
• 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
• 1/2 lemon
• 1 c. fresh spinach
• 1/4 c. fresh dill, chopped
• 1 tbsp. scallions, sliced
• 1 (8-in.) tortilla
• 1/3 c. hummus
• 1/4 c. feta cheese
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and pinch of salt. Roast for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove and let cool.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss broccoli florets with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until tips of broccoli begin to char. Remove from oven and add a squeeze of lemon.
Chop spinach into thin strips. In a small mixing bowl, toss spinach with 1 tablespoon olive oil, dill and scallions.
Warm tortilla until it's soft and pliable. Smear hummus on the entire tortilla. Sprinkle spinach on lower third, followed by feta, a handful of roasted tomatoes and broccoli. (Refrigerate remaining tomatoes in an airtight jar for up to a week.) Wrap tortilla tightly, then cut in half before serving.
Alyssa Shultis is a Twin Cities food writer and recipe developer.