Broccoli Surprise…


(Ok, there’s parsley in the very front, but everything else is pretty much broccoli…)

The problem with buying transplants at a nursery is that they’re all the same age, and the same size. So, if you buy a six-pack, unlike a six-pack of beer, you can’t just drink a few of them, and save the rest. Instead, you have six of whatever you planted ripening at the same moment. If you go under the premise that not all of the plants might make it, buying 6 of one thing might work out. Or if you have a large family. Or if you’re diligent about picking it early, so that it looks pretty enough to give away (instead of leaving it out in the garden, hoping that it will stay in the just-perfect- ready-to-be-picked stage, instead of the still-very-tasty -not-to-mention-home- grown-and-organic-yet-starting-to-look-like-it-might-flower-at-any-moment stage). So, welcome to broccoli week.

We’ve now eaten, in the space of about a week, broccoli steamed, broccoli korean style ( steamed, then tossed with sesame seeds + oil, soy, brown sugar, pepper, vinegar; served cold), broccoli in-the-style-of-my-favorite-broccoli-raab recipe (another day, another post), garlicky sesame-cured broccoli salad, and (da-dah!) broccoli surprise.

Now, if this was B’s blog, and he could dictate what I wrote here, he’d have me telling you all about tonight’s “garlicky sesame-cured broccoli salad”– a lucky find in today’s New York Times food section. It is delicious, bathed in warmed garlic and cumin, spicy + just a little tart, and Melissa Clark’s accompanying article was also quite entertaining- talking about how the original name of the dish- “marinated raw broccoli” just didn’t quite cut it. More than anything, the article was relateable, because the recipe I’m going to tell you about was shunned the same way because of its name- “Broccoli Surprise”. Granted, the only one turning up his nose at the evening’s broccoli selection was B, and he’s also the only one it was ever presented to, but nevertheless, it still stings- because its a recipe that I made up, and more importantly, named! The name was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek riff on every bad fifties-era dish you’ve ever had- bringing to mind casseroles with “secret ingredients” like mushroom soup, or, perhaps more appropriately, cream of broccoli… to belie the tasty treat it actually is. It’s actually more of a slaw than a salad- bright, crunchy, with a taste reminicent of cabbage (no far stretch, since they’re related), tangy and piquant with lime, and tartness softened by the sprinkling of cheese. The oregano is the best part- adding depth and a little complexity, and moving the flavor profile slighty over towards mexican food (but still neutral enough to eat with a variety of dishes). I served it with a big bowl of posole (mexican hominy soup), but it’d be equally as good with anything you serve a slaw with- sandwiches, barbecue, etc… And, like Melissa Clark, I couldn’t just name it exactly for what it was- “raw, broccoli stem salad” just doesn’t have the pleasant little lilt that saying “broccoli surprise” does! Call it something else if you have to, or just don’t call it by name when you’re serving it to someone who has painful memories of over-cooked broccoli, but do try it!

The quantites in the recipe are approximate- its more of a guideline to putting a few ingredients together, rather than an actual recipe. It was actually an attempt to use up the rest of the broccoli, when the florets were used for another recipe.

Broccoli Surprise

stems from two large heads of broccoli

juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (optional)

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried

1/3 cup of cojita cheese (crumbled)

freshly ground black pepper

Julienne the broccoli into 2″ long pieces. Place in a medium bowl, squeeze lime juice over broccoli, toss to coat. Drizzle olive oil over mix. Sprinkle with oregano and cojita cheese, toss to combine. Add pepper to taste, and adjust seasonings. Serves 2 or 3 as a side dish.