SUNDAY MAGAZINE

Blend it with broccoli

SWAPNA DUTTA

VERSATILE VEGGIE: It's chockful of good stuff.

VERSATILE VEGGIE: It's chockful of good stuff.  

BROCCOLI belongs to the same family as the cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. It is scientifically classed under Brassica oleracea italica. It is easy to identify broccoli by its thick cluster of bright green flowers.

Recent researches have proved that broccoli reduces the risk of cancer. A recent study on the cancer-fighting potential of broccoli by scientists at the Johns Hopkins University states that "sulforaphane", a substance produced by the body from a compound in broccoli, can detoxify cancer-causing chemicals and is one of the most potent anti-cancer compounds. It also helps reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Even broccoli sprouts are said to be as beneficial as full-grown broccoli.

What makes broccoli so special is the fact that it contains more nutrients than any other vegetable. It is particularly rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, fibre, calcium and folic acid. It helps boost certain enzymes in our body that help fight toxins. It also helps lower blood cholesterol.

One cup of cooked broccoli contains as much calcium as four ounces of milk. The same amount can also provide 10 per cent of your daily iron requirements. A cup of cooked broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange, equal to your daily quota of Vitamin C. Finally, it is a boon for calorie counters because one cup of cooked broccoli contains 22 calories while the same amount of raw broccoli contains just 12 calories.

Blend it with broccoli

Another advantage is that it can be eaten raw. And it tastes good whether boiled, steamed, baked or fried. It is easy to store. The best way of keeping it fresh is to put it in a perforated plastic bag and keep it in the crisper. Never wash it before storing or it may turn mouldy. Eat it within 2-3 days and wash it just before using. Always wash broccoli under running water. Never soak it or you will lose valuable water-soluble nutrients.

Cut the florets into uniform pieces to ensure even cooking. Don't forget to include the stems as well. Chop them or cut them into julienne strips. Steam or simmer them in an inch of boiling water for 3-4 minutes. It should look bright green and not get too soft. Overcooked broccoli turns dark green and has an unpleasant odour. Overcooking also causes the loss of vitamin C.

Broccoli tastes particularly good with basil, garlic and lemon. Cooking broccoli is really simple. To use it raw, chop or dice broccoli florets and stems very fine and add to your salad consisting of crisp lettuce and other fresh vegetables (such as carrots, radish, onions and capsicum, all shredded fine), peas and tomatoes cut into little pieces. Toss it in a dressing made with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and a dash of honey. Or you could add finely shredded broccoli to your tomato or chicken soup for added flavour and goodness.

You could try blending broccoli florets with cucumbers, yogurt, iced water and a sweet apple in the mixer to make a refreshing chilled soup. Add the juice of an orange if you like and serve in tall glasses with ice cubes. Blend broccoli with tomato puree, salt, pepper, chilly powder and sugar for an unusual sauce that tastes particularly good with steamed rice, baked potatoes or pasta.

Most people, however, prefer to eat it cooked. For those who like steamed vegetables, it is best to cut the broccoli into florets and steam it either in the microwave oven or directly on the gas. It must not be overcooked.

Fresh broccoli usually has a pleasant taste. But sometimes it can be slightly bitter. In that case parboil it in water for a minute or two. Steamed broccoli tastes good with most sauce or dressings, such as mayonnaise, Thousand Island dressing or horseradish sauce. Broccoli can also be stir-fried.

Whichever way you choose to eat it, try to make it a regular part of your diet because it is a health food in the true sense of the term.

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