Descended from wild brassica plants from the mustard family native to the Mediterranean, the stems were eaten before the flower heads came to be treated as a delicacy by the Italians who claimed its heritage, broccoli coming from the Italian brocco (shoot).
The Italians remain faithful to the plant, finding that it slips into their comfort zone when combined with olive oil and anchovy or garlic or both to make sauces for pasta.
Orecchiette con Broccoli e Acciughe (pasta with broccoli, anchovies, olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes) is popular throughout Italy, from Bari in the east to Sicily in the south.
In the north of the peninsula, a lighter sauce is made with broccoli, olive oil and garlic and served with spaghetti.
Broccoli contains vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.
Broccoli Raab has dark green leaves and thin stalks. It makes a pungent cream of broccoli soup.
Broccoli and cream are an unusual culinary marriage but they compliment each other.
Calabrese is a variety of broccoli, named for Calabria, with green or purple tight heads. It can be blanched, cooled and eaten in salads.
Bulviniai Paplotėliai su Brokoliais
The general tradition in Europe these days is to fry a potato mixture in a greased frying pan, either as pancakes, as hash browns or as loose rösti.
Slow cooking them dry on a griddle or skillet is an older tradition and baking them in an oven probably began in the 19th century.
Unlike most of Europe, Lithuania has maintained that old tradition.
Adding broccoli was culinary genius.
750 g floury/mealy potatoes, peeled, quartered 250 g broccoli, whole, stalk removed 100 g butter 1 egg, beaten 10 g dill, chopped Salt, large pinch Black pepper, freshly ground, large pinch
Boil potatoes and broccoli in lightly salted water in separate pots.
Drain potatoes, put in a large bowl with the butter, season.
Drain broccoli, reserve some of the liquid.
Mash potatoes with three tablespoons of broccoli liquid until smooth and creamy. When cool stir in egg.
Cut broccoli into small pieces, stir into mash. Season again and add dill. Make eight large balls.
Alternatively add dill to the potato mixture, roll into 16 small balls.
Make an indent in each ball, and place a small piece of broccoli into the centre, seal.
Lay balls on an oiled tray, flatten with a light pressing of the hand and bake for 30 minutes at 180°C.
In Lithuania they serve these cakes with sour cream and a hearty skanaus.
1 kg broccoli, stalks removed, chopped into large pieces 30 ml olive oil 6 garlic cloves, crushed, chopped small Wine vinegar, splash Salt, large pinch Water, for boiling
Bring a pot of salted water with one clove of garlic to the boil.
Add broccoli pieces, cook for five minutes. Drain.
Put oil in a frying pan. Over a low heat sauté broccoli with the garlic and a little wine vinegar, about 15 minutes.
Serve with pasta or on its own.
Broccoli Romani – 1
Pellegrino Artusi gives an interesting twist to broccoli cooked with pork belly and sweet white wine.
500 g broccoli heads, washed, blanched, cooled in ice water bath, drained 250 g fatty pork belly, chopped small 250 ml sweet white wine 5 g black pepper Salt, large pinch
Chop broccoli coarsely.
Heat a frying pan and start rendering the fat from the pork belly. Add the broccoli and cook until the pork starts to brown.
Add wine, cook covered over a medium heat until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Broccoli Romani – 2
500 g broccoli/calabrese heads, washed, cut small 100 ml water, warm 100 ml white wine 30 ml olive oil 9 garlic cloves, cut into thin slices Seasonings, large pinch
Saute the garlic in the oil until it starts to turn brown at the edges, add broccoli and stir for three minutes.
Add water. Cook until water evaporates, add wine.
Reduce heat and cook covered until the broccoli is soft, season and serve with pasta.
Orecchiette con Calabrese e Acciughe
This ear-shaped coin pasta, associated with Bari on Italy’s east coast, is made for the sauces the people of the peninsula keep to themselves.
Once such sauce is anchovy and garlic flavoured calabrese drenched in olive oil.
The amount of olive oil seems at first excessive but it is necessary to absorb the calabrese, cling to the orrechiette and hold the cheese.
Fresh calabrese should be used.
The anchovies should come in oil, of Mediterranean origin.
1 kg calabrese whole stalks, washed 500 g orecchiette 150 ml olive oil 10 garlic cloves 100 g anchovy fillets 50 g parmigiano, grated 50 g pecorino, grated 15 g pepper 10 g peperoncini/chilli flakes 1 tsp salt
Cut stem ends from broccoli. Boil broccoli, flower heads up, in a large covered pot of salted water, stems in, heads out of water. Remove to a large soup plate when the stems are al dente.
Cut stems into small pieces, leave flower heads whole.
Heat oil in a large wide frying pan, brown garlic, add broccoli, anchovies and chilli flakes, season.
Cook pasta, drain and mix into broccoli, dress with cheese.
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