by Alison Charbonneau
Broccoli is a staple in my house. It is simple and delicious and a great side dish to any meal. I incorporate broccoli into many of my dinners throughout the week. It's vibrant green colour and interesting tree like structure make it a family favourite….well maybe not a favourite for the entire family. The other day as I was preparing dinner, my youngest told me, "you really like broccoli mom, but I do not." He is right, I really do like broccoli. Maybe I make broccoli a little too much for my family’s liking. I have noticed, however, that how I prepare the broccoli makes a difference as sometimes the kids enjoy it and other times they give me a hard no.
Look for tightly closed, deep green buds with slender, firm stems and crisp leaves.
Broccoli's preparation really can change the texture and flavour. When steamed the broccoli can get soft and can have that real strong broccoli flavour but when it is grilled or sautéed it will maintain a crispness and take on some of the other flavours around it. When broccoli gets left in my fridge for a few days I enjoy incorporating it into a vegetable soup. Soup at this time of year seems counterintuitive but it can actually be a light, easy and enjoyable meal when running from the beach or pool to the ball diamonds or soccer fields.
Another great way to add some variety to broccoli is with cheese! Sarah Dufton of the Mildmay Cheese Haus, Port Elgin, tells me that broccoli and melted cheese is especially good when combined in a cheesy quiche or a broccoli and cheddar soup (recipe below). "You can't go wrong with a sharp cheddar!" If you are thinking about making a cheese sauce to pour over your broccoli or using in a creamy mac & cheese, Sarah suggests that you "take your pan off the heat before adding shredded cheese, the heat makes the fat separate and can lead to a grainy sauce."
Sarah was super knowledgeable about all things cheese so I asked her about some of her favorite things to do with it. "Try new things and pair opposite flavours." She goes on to tell me that as a fan of sweet and salty combinations she enjoys balancing sharp or smoky cheeses with dark chocolate, honey or red grapes. "Something I like to stress with cheese is that there are no hard and fast rules. Experiment!" Some other combinations she recommends trying: fresh fruit with mild cheese; or fresh greens like baby spinach or kale with a rich cheese; or pickled vinegary foods with a bold cheese.
If you are interested in all things cheese go talk to Sarah at the Cheese Haus. And if you are looking for some broccoli to try that cheese sauce with, Hi-Berry Farm has you covered.
Broccoli & Cheddar Soup
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons garlic (about 3 cloves)
2 lb. broccoli, stems chopped and the florets cut into 1 in. pieces (about 5 cups florets)
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
A dash of cayenne
A splash or two Worcestershire sauce
2 packed cup grated extra old white cheddar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 or so slices of rustic bread
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots, half the garlic, the broccoli stems, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add 5 cups water and season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the stems are tender, about 10 minutes. Add mustard powder, paprika, and cayenne. Add 3 cups of the broccoli florets and cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes more. Allow the soup to cool slightly so it can be transferred to a blender. Add 1 cup cheese and puree until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and a splash or two of Worcestershire.
2. Stir together the rest of the cheese and garlic. Place bread on one side of prepared baking sheet and the remaining broccoli florets on the other. Drizzle both with olive oil, a sprinkle of salt & pepper, and top with the cheese & garlic mixture. Roast 15 minutes, tossing florets halfway through. Serve soup with roasted florets and crusty cheese bread.
photography by Jill Schildroth Photography
recipe by Sarah at Mildmay Cheese Haus