Winters are when broccoli is available in plenty and for cheap. I am talking 60-70 a kilogram compared to nearly 300 during other times of the year. It is the best time to buy broccoli regularly and eat it in a variety of dishes.

Here are some tips to ensure you choose the best broccoli. The broccoli head should be dark green. The florets should be tightly packed in the head, with no gaps between them. Turn over and look at the bottom of the stalk to check for any bad smell or rot. There should be no yellow or light green patches, these are indicators that it has seen better days.

The best way to use broccoli is in salads. Chunks of broccoli make a salad more filling and hearty. The bright green adds to the colour of the salad, á la #eattherainbow. At nearly 3g protein per 100g, it is a good source of protein to add to a vegetarian salad. Being a mildly flavoured vegetable, it pairs with pretty much any ingredient and dressing.

So what’s the best way to use broccoli in salads? I definitely do not recommend it raw. My favourite way to cook broccoli for salads is either steaming (or microwaving) and roasting, out of which microwaving wins hands down. This takes the least time and effort (3 minutes) and retains a most brilliant green colour with no sogginess.

Given that both cauliflower and broccoli are cruciferous vegetables, it’s common to assume that they have similar nutritional profiles. While both vegetables are low-calorie, low-carb and high-fibre, broccoli has a higher concentration of vitamins A, C, E and K and calcium than cauliflower.

Some people may have an inherent distaste for broccoli. This is because of the gene TAS2R38, which affects how we perceive bitter foods. People with some variations of this gene are more likely to find broccoli unpleasant and bitter.

What are winters without soups? Broccoli lends itself to scrumptious soups, especially one with almonds. I cannot help but mention Gordon Ramsay’s startlingly minimalistic broccoli soup here. All you need is broccoli, water, cream and seasoning. Google for this recipe and try it out this winter.

The thing about broccoli is that it totally holds its own in recipes with a spartan ingredient list

Broccoli sesame garlic soya sauce. Photographs by Nandita Iyer
Broccoli sesame garlic soya sauce. Photographs by Nandita Iyer

While there are no traditional Indian recipes with broccoli, there’s nothing stopping us from making a simple Tamil-style poriyal or an aloo-broccoli (along the lines of aloo-gobhi).

Adding florets of steamed broccoli to pasta is the easiest way to make children love this healthy vegetable. Broccoli pairs best with a béchamel kind of sauce. I even completely omit the pasta and make a bowl of steamed broccoli smothered with cheesy béchamel sauce. Even though I make it for my son, I cannot stop myself from digging into the bowl.

The stalks of broccoli may be too fibrous for use in salads or soups, but in keeping with the concept of zero-waste cooking, I urge you not to discard them. Grate the stalks and add to muthia (steamed flour dumplings) dough mix (besan, jowar, atta, spices, oil, yogurt), which is then steamed and tossed in a tempering. Cut stalks into thin juliennes and make a dry subzi or a stir fry with spices, with the possible addition of a potato. Thinly sliced stalks can also be oven-roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and eaten as a snack or added to salads.

BROCCOLI QUINOA SALAD

Serves 2

Ingredients

K cup black quinoa

2 cups broccoli florets

2 tsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup pomegranate arils

1/4 cup cashew nut halves

For the dressing

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

A pinch of chilli flakes

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ginger, finely grated

Method

Soak quinoa for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and cook with O cup water and a pinch of salt for 15 minutes, or until it is cooked through. Spread out on a dish to cool.

Place broccoli florets in a microwave-safe bowl. Add 1-2 tbsp of water. Cover and microwave for 3 minutes. Drain any extra water.

In a pan, warm 2 tsp olive oil. Sauté chopped garlic for a few seconds. Combine the broccoli florets and stir gently. Keep aside.

In a pan or in a microwave, toast the cashew nut halves until golden brown.

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and whisk well with a fork.

To assemble the salad, spread out the quinoa on a platter. Scatter broccoli florets and pomegranate over the quinoa. Drizzle dressing all around the salad.

Top with toasted cashew nuts. Serve immediately.

BROCCOLI IN SESAME GARLIC SOYA SAUCE

Serves 2

Ingredients

4 cups broccoli florets

1 tbsp groundnut oil

2 tsp garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp white sesame seeds

1-1K tbsp soya sauce

Method

Wash and place the broccoli florets in a microwave-safe bowl. Add 1-2 tbsp of water. Cover and microwave for 3 minutes. Drain any extra water.

In a large pan, heat oil. Fry chopped garlic for a few seconds. Stir in sesame seeds. As the seeds splutter, add soya sauce and the steamed broccoli florets. Toss to combine well and serve on a bed of steamed rice or as a salad.

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.

@saffrontrail

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