Baked Asian Broccoli

I know there are some people out there that despise broccoli and it’s strange tree-like appearance.  I don’t understand those people.  How could you not love such a tasty vegetable with so many fantastic nutrients!?!?  Now, I’ll admit that I’ve had bad broccoli before, especially during my school days, but since I’ve started buying fresh broccoli, my life has changed.

No longer am I buying frozen broccoli to steam and butter.  It gets limp and squishy and rubbery and, frankly, it just doesn’t do it for me any more!  I like sexy vegetables.  I want my broccoli firm, hot and savory all at the same time (sounds kinda dirty, doesn’t it?).  Monotony is not something I appreciate in my vegetables!  The best way to buy it is raw, uncooked and organic; buying it from your local farmer’s market is even better!

There are three ways that I prepare my broccoli on a regular basis – raw, baked and browned.  It’s almost impossible to go wrong with broccoli when you prepare it these three ways.

Raw: Self-explanatory.  Rinse it, break into shrubs, chop up the trunk and serve with dip.  Personally, I like a nice low-fat ranch or a low-fat sour cream with adobo spice mixed in.  Can’t go wrong, especially since broccoli is a ZERO POINT food!  You only have to account for the point value of the dip.

Baked:  Set your oven to 350 while you prep.  Break up the broccoli into pieces based on your personal bite-size preference; not too small though, since the smaller they are, the faster they wilt.  Put it into a ceramic/glass baking dish that’s big enough to keep the broccoli from laying on top of each other too much.  This is the part that you get to be creative with!  I usually spray mine down with some Organic Canola Spray (about 3 seconds), possibly add in a tbsp or two of a healthy oil (olive or sesame) and just start spicing it up!  Great marinades/spices for broccoli are garlic (minced or powdered), sea salt, fresh pepper, adobo, teriyaki (i LOVE trader joe’s soyaki), soy sauce, asian chili garlic sauce, red pepper flakes, and if you want to be more daring, curry spice or cumin might just do it for you!  Season to your liking, but don’t over-spice it.  The flavor of the spices is meant to compliment the flavor of the broccoli, not overpower it.  Mix it all together with a spoon or by hand in the dish, spread it out, add about 1/4-1/2 cup water to bottom of dish and stick in the oven.  Check after about 12 minutes, stir it up a bit and then put it in for another 10 minutes or so.  Try a piece each time to check so that you can make sure where you are in regards to your desired firmness.  Mine usually doesn’t go much longer than about 20 minutes, but I make sure to check every five minutes after the inital 12.  It also lets me know if I need to add a little more flavor or not.

Browned: By browned, I mean cooked in a really hot pan without a lot of oil, so that the edges brown up a bit.  It’s really similar to a stir-fry method.  I prepare the broccoli the same way I would if I was baking it, but I’d use a mixing bowl instead of a baking dish (don’t add the water).  Heat up a skillet pan on medium-high heat.  You can use a non-stick or a regular pan.  Spray the broccoli with the spray oil instead of spraying it on the pan because it’ll be too hot.  It would just steam up and disappear.  Once the pan is nice and hot, pour all the contents of your mixing bowl in and immediately start turning it over and over with two wooden spatulas.  I have two flat bamboo ones that I’ve received as gifts in sushi sets and they work fabulously!  Once you’ve turned it a few times, pour in a small amount of water, maybe 2-3 tbsp; just enough to start the “steam” which will soften it without making it all mushy.  Keep turning and browning until it’s reached your desired softness/firmness.  You can also use 2-3 tbsp of a marinade and then you don’t even need to worry about adding water.  Just Pam the skillet, pour in broccoli, pour on the marinade and stir.  This isn’t a cooking method that you can start, leave and come back to.  You really have to be around it so that you can turn every couple minutes or so, otherwise your “browning” will turn into “burning”.  I do not endorse burned food!  Unless it’s marshmallows.  Yummm…. :)  I can easily cook this while preparing chicken and mashed potatoes at the same time.  It’s all about time-management!  And don’t stress; practice makes perfect.

There are lots of other ways to prepare broccoli, but these are definitely my top three.  For a vegetable that has been publicly denounced by past US Presidents, it’s certainly kept it’s integrity!  It’s tasty when done right and it’s good for you.  And with it’s tree-like structure, it’s a sure winner when it comes to soaking up flavor.  Those little shrubs make quite succulent bites, especially when using marinades.  We don’t have a huge variety of dark green vegetables to choose from, but I’m definitely more likely to choose broccoli over spinach, green beans or kale!  (Not that those aren’t tasty too.  All veggies are tasty at least ONE way!)

As far as Weight Watcher points go, the only ones you have to account for are in the oil and any sauce/marinade that you pour on (like teriyaki sauce or chili garlic sauce).  Typically, a serving of these is equivalent to ONE POINT!  Holy sweet Jesus, it’s just too good to be true!  So, enjoy trying out different broccoli dishes with these cooking methods and experience the culinary exhilaration at your fingertips.