Friday, September 23, 2005

Benefits of Brocoli

I first learned to love the taste and health benefits of brocoli from Chinese food. I enjoyed the slightly crunchy green vegetable made up in a sauce with other things slightly cooked, like onions and mushrooms and tiny cobs of corn.

Most people who don't like brocoli have never experienced its true flavor, properly cooked. Unfortunately, people often fed it to their children cooked to a mush, and it loses all its flavor and color, exuding a most unwelcome scent.

A woman told me she included brocoli with most of her meals, and that she'd grown to like it so much she began to actually crave it. I observed that she never had a weight problem. Our family doesn't suffer so much from extra weight, when we regularly eat brocoli.

The best way to choose fresh brocoli is to find the heads where the little florets are tightly woven together, and darkest green, almost blue, in color. The closer together these little beads of green foliage, the freshest and youngest and sweetest the brocoli when cooked. It must be slightly cooked, even if you are eating it raw or in a salad, to release some of the nutrients in it. You can put it in a colander in a pan with a little water, and steam it til it turns bright green, just about one minute, and then remove it, for salads or dips. It will still be crisp, but a lot tastier and sweeter than raw brocoli.

Scroll down for my favorite way to prepare it, in Stir Fry Brocoli.

I've been told that brocoli has more vitamin C and Calcium than oranges and many other foods well known for these nutrients. From this site

I are a few facts and tips about cooking brocoli:

Broccoli is a hardy vegetable of the cabbage family that is high in vitamins A and D. It develops best during cool seasons of the year.

Store the broccoli, unwashed, in loose or perforated plastic bags in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. Broccoli left unrefrigerated quickly becomes fibrous and woody. Wet broccoli quickly becomes limp and moldy in the refrigerator—so wash it just before using. Store fresh broccoli in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Old broccoli may look fine, but it develops strong undesirable flavors. It tastes best and is highest in nutritional value when storage time is brief.

A member of the cabbage family and a close relative of cauliflower, broccoli packs more nutrients than any other vegetable. Broccoli contains large amounts of vitamin C and beta carotene which are important antioxidants. In the United States, broccoli has become the most favored cruciferous vegetable (cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, and all forms of cabbage). Researchers have concluded that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables should be included in the diet several times a week. Consuming foods high in antioxidants can reduce the risk of some forms of cancer and heart disease. One half cup cooked broccoli contains the following nutrients as well as many other trace nutrients and phytochemicals.

Nutrition Facts (1/2 cup cooked fresh broccoli)

Calories 23
Dietary fiber 2.4 grams'
Protein 2.3 grams
Carbohydrates 4.3 mg
Beta carotene
Vitamin C 49 mg
Folic Acid 53.3 nanograms
Calcium 89 mg
Iron 0.9 mg

Wash broccoli under cool running water. Never allow it to sit in water as it will lose water soluble nutrients. Fresh broccoli is delicious raw or cooked. Trim and peel the stalk, it is high in fiber. Cut the florets into uniform pieces for even cooking. Overcooked broccoli develops a strong sulfur odor. Steam broccoli for 3-4 minutes or simmer in about one inch of boiling water for the same amount of time or less. Cooked broccoli should be bright green and tender-crisp. Overcooked broccoli turns dark green and suffers nutrient loss, especially vitamin C.

Herbs and spices that enhance the flavor of broccoli include basil, dill, garlic, lemon balm, marjoram, oregano, tarragon and thyme.

Steamed Broccoli with Lemon-Dill Dressing
1 bunch broccoli (about 2 pounds)
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 -inch strips
Lemon-Dill Dressing
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon, grated or minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon dried dill weed or 3 teaspoons fresh dill
salt to taste
Wash, trim stems from broccoli and peel, cut into strips the same size as carrots. Cut florets into small uniform pieces and set aside. Prepare carrots and set aside. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. (Or prepare the steamer) Add carrots and broccoli stems. Cook for one minute. Add broccoli florets and boil two minutes longer. Do not over cook. Drain, and rinse under cold running water, drain again. Place in a large bowl and gently toss with dressing. Serve immediately.
Makes six servings.

Broccoli Stir-fry
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
1/2 cup walnuts, broken or chopped coarsely
1/4 cup chopped green onions with tops (optional)
4 cups broccoli florets
1/4 cup red pepper strips
2 tablespoons lite soy sauce
In a large heavy, skillet heat oil until hot. Add walnuts and onions and stir-fry for one minute tossing constantly. Add broccoli and continue to toss for three to four minutes. Add red pepper strips and soy sauce and continue to cook one minute longer. Serve immediately. Makes six servings.

Carla Chapman informs me that bagged brocoli salad is available at the Wal-Mart deli section. We haven't progressed to that civilized point out here in the wild west, yet, but I'm sure looking forward to our Wal-Mart expansion into the food department. Safeway has a wonderful brocoli salad in their deli, also, which is great for spur of the moment entertaining and always delicious. The dressing they use is a combination of Rice Vinegar and Olive oil. Mmmmmm good.

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