Mexico Life
Broccoli makes a good stuffing for chicken breasts.

Broccoli: a ubiquitous, healthy treat to enliven your table

Tasty broccoli dishes are a healthy addition to anyone's dinnertime repertoire

Sometimes shopping for produce in Mexico can be frustrating; there just isn’t the wide selection one finds north of the border. (At least in some parts of the United States.)

When local farmers’ markets open up again, usually in mid-November, the produce landscape starts to expand, but until then, well, it can seem like the same ol’, same ol’.

Broccoli is one of those always-available-but-not-really-inspiring vegetables. Its constant (and sometimes overbearing) presence in Mexican produce aisles and as an accompaniment to restaurant entrées might just be because the country is one of the biggest broccoli growers in the world. While most of it is exported, in recent years Mexico’s broccoli consumption has skyrocketed: per-capita consumption in Mexico is the world’s fourth-highest after China, India and the United States.

Most of it is grown in the state of Guanajuato, with San Miguel de Allende the biggest growing region. The cool, mountainous climate is an almost ideal condition for year-round broccoli production.

The word “broccoli” comes from the Italian plural of broccolo, meaning “the flowering crest of a cabbage.” That makes sense since it’s a member of the brassica family, which includes cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. Interestingly, “broccoli raab,” or rapini, is actually a type of turnip!

Add a crust and the frittata becomes a quiche.
Add a crust and the frittata becomes a quiche.

Even more confusing is the fact that purple cauliflower is really a variety of broccoli. And broccolini — which I always thought was simply the outer stems of regular broccoli — is a specific hybrid of regular and Chinese broccoli that produces small broccoli florets on top of long, slender stalks.

Before cooking broccoli, especially if organic, do look carefully between the tiny branches of the florets. At certain times of year there can be tiny green cabbage worms that are hard to see. Soaking the broccoli in salted water for 20 minutes or so will cause them to float to the top.

One more fun fact: broccoli has nearly twice the vitamin C of oranges by weight. Who knew?

Broccoli Frittata

Don’t use frozen veggies — the extra water content will make the end result soggy. Add a crust and you have a quiche!

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil or butter
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets OR half fresh spinach, half broccoli
  • ½ cup sliced mushrooms, optional
  • 1 cup shredded Chihuahua cheese
  • ¼ cup goat cheese or feta, crumbled
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 5 large eggs
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 9-inch pie pan. Heat oil or butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, mushrooms and broccoli, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender but not soft. Whisk eggs and milk; add red pepper, salt and pepper.

Pour egg mixture into pie pan. Spoon in vegetables and sprinkle cheeses over mixture. (They will sink as it cooks.) Bake in preheated oven until center has set, 30–40 minutes.

Asian Broccoli Salad

  • 2 lbs. broccoli
  • 2 carrots, peeled & julienned
  • 1 small purple onion, sliced
  • ¾ cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts (3-5 scallions)
  • ½ cup lightly salted peanuts, finely chopped
  • 1 pkg. dried ramen noodles, any flavor
  • ⅓ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • Hot sauce
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro or mint

Cut off broccoli florets, keeping an inch or two of the stalk. Julienne stems and florets and place in a large bowl. Add carrots, onion, scallions and peanuts.

In a small bowl, whisk tahini, lime juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, garlic and hot sauce until smooth. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss. Set aside at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, tossing occasionally. Just before serving, mix in crumbled ramen noodles and fresh herbs.

broccoli

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1½ cups finely chopped broccoli
  • ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
  • ½ cup cooked white rice
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. powdered garlic
  • 4 (6 oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • Spices for poultry rub

Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Combine broccoli, cheddar cheese, rice and onion. Add salt and garlic.

Cut a deep pocket into each chicken breast with a sharp knife and stuff with broccoli-cheese mixture. Place in prepared pan. Sprinkle with poultry rub spices or just salt and pepper.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and cook until chicken is no longer pink in the center and juices run clear, about 10 more minutes.

Fresh Broccoli Soup

  • 1 ½ lbs. broccoli (1 big head)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tsp chopped fresh thyme, if available
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Optional: cheddar cheese, chopped chives for garnish

Cut tops of broccoli into florets. Peel about 2 inches of stems closest to florets and cut into ¼-inch slices.

In saucepan, heat oil; add garlic, onions and broccoli and sauté till tender. Add lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper. Add 2 inches of boiling water, cover and cook till veggies are tender. Puree carefully in blender with stock. Return to pan, add milk and nutmeg, and slowly heat through without boiling. Taste for seasoning. Garnish with chives and cheese and serve.
— “More Recipes From A Kitchen Garden,” Renee Shepherd

Janet Blaser has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life and feels fortunate to be able to write about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Her first book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, is available on Amazon. Contact Janet or read her blog at whyweleftamerica.com.

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