Eat your broccoli. It fights cancer.
That’s good enough for me. Trying to remember that brassica family veggies like broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, and the cabbages are loaded with thingies called indoles and isothiocyanates, which slow cancer growth, isn’t going to work for me.
I have to imagine a thick forest of broccoli “trees” standing between nasty cancer-carrying marauders and my innocent, pink flesh.
Okay, that visualization might make a researcher — especially the researchers who are busy right this minute isolating those indoles because they’ve discovered their action against cancer tumors, and are distilling and designing a new drug that has already cured cancer in other animals — it might make them roll their eyes a little.
I don’t mind. I know what I need to do is keep that forest of broccoli trees thick and strong and impenetrable by eating more of it, every chance I get. We have all known this for a long time, but so few of us actually get as much of the green as we should or could. How can we make it easier?
And no, no, we’re not talking about the sort of broccoli that comes in a frozen box covered with mucosal goo made to look cheese-ish. I want my broccoli to come home from the store or farmers’ market raw, green (not yellow anywhere), so fresh it’s practically speaking to me, with tightly closed, closely packed buds. Or my pile of broccoli rabe looking as if it wants to jump into my cart, its jagged leaves crisp and firm, not limp and sad. When I buy my broccoli frozen, I want the ingredients list on the package to say: broccoli. One word. No additions, no substitutions.
And how do I eat it? Well, I still eat it the way I ate it as a kid, cut into broccoli “trees” and quickly boiled (4-5 minutes in boiling, salted water does it) or steamed (five minutes, exactly). Today I dribble a really good olive oil on top (Mom used to serve with a mock-hollandaise sauce, but those days are over.) I might also serve it with a tapenade (olive paste) or anchovy sauce to nod at broccoli’s Mediterranean history.
I try to remember to steam up broccoli as soon as I get it home. I cut it up, throw it into a steamer for three or four minutes, and dunk it into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Drained and packed away in plastic bags, this pre-cooked broccoli is ready for me to grab and grill, toss into a stir-fry, add to a quesadilla, pop into an omelet, bulk up a chili, set out with a dip for guests, or just warm up as a side dish for dinner. It’ll keep several days this way, but doesn’t usually last that long.
Frozen broccoli is there for much the same reason, and serves as emergency back-up food when I’ve run out of time and ideas. I use frozen broccoli to make broccoli soups, to add bulk and fiber and green to chicken and beef broth soups too. Let it come to room temperature before adding it to a stir-fry.
Though I really prefer my vegetables to crunch, I will sometimes need soft and warm, and then I braise my broccoli in chicken stock or bake it in a gratin (with potatoes and tomatoes and onions and ham and pecorino cheese, dribbled over with olive oil and chicken stock), until it becomes tender, filling, low-cal comfort food. Do this with the freshest broccoli you can find. You don’t want to intensify flavors of elderly broccoli.
Fortify your forests, folks. I will if you will.