Broccoli, the dinnertime scourge of many young children, is a vegetable that lends itself to many different forms of preparation and "dressing up." Steamed broccoli doesn't have to be the plain Jane of the vegetable family. While often served with just butter, this vegetable has sufficient body to hold up under sauces and has a distinct flavor that can be brought out with spices and lighter dressings.
Romesco is a somewhat spicy Spanish sauce based on roasted vegetables -- red peppers, tomato, garlic, and onion -- with a dash of toasted almonds. You can easily make this delightful sauce in a blender and you should feel free to improvise. A warm cilantro pesto cream sauce can be made without butter and adds a bit of Mexican zip when spooned over broccoli. The rich flavor of a sauce created by cooking down fresh tomatoes will bring out the earthiness of fresh broccoli.
You may think of Hollandaise as a part of eggs Benedict or poured over asparagus, but it can also be used as a rich topping for broccoli. Traditional Hollandaise is a cooked emulsion of egg yolks, butter and lemon juice or vinegar, but you can substitute oil for the butter. Best of all, a basic Hollandaise can be transformed into Bearnaise in a heartbeat by adding white wine, tarragon and shallots. Bechamel is one of the "mother sauces" from which most well-known sauces are derived, but it works well on its own. Make this traditional creamy white sauce by adding milk to a butter and flour roux. Use olive oil or canola oil in the roux if you wish to avoid butter.
Cheese sauces pair well with broccoli, whether sophisticated or simple. Use a basic cheddar cheese sauce recipe but use beer instead of milk and butter to create a topping that will add contrasting color and flavor to your broccoli. Substitute olive oil or canola oil in the roux if you wish to avoid butter. Goat cheese can be thinned with olive oil and lemon juice to make a sharply defined sauce, and bechamel sauce can be transformed into Mornay sauce by adding a few ounces of grated Gruyere, Swiss or Parmesan cheese for each pint of simmering bechamel.
Give your broccoli an Asian spin with a sesame oil and rice vinegar dressing, or go Italian with balsamic vinaigrette. A blend of lemon juice and yogurt with a smattering of fresh herbs works equally well on cold or warm steamed broccoli. Broccoli is flavorful on its own, so consider topping it with a few fresh herbs, salt and pepper and perhaps a squeeze of lemon.
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Raechel Donahue is an author, journalist and former features editor of the Brentwood News. Her specialties include travel, food and film. She performs a weekend show on BossBossRadio.com, runs a travel website and has written, produced and directed several PBS documentaries. A native Californian, Donahue currently lives in France.
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