Broccoli differs from most vegetables in that it offers contrasting textures in its natural form – crispness from the dense stalk and tenderness from the soft florets. During cooking, broccoli, like other fibrous vegetables, does not absorb much liquid, including oil – augmenting the vegetable’s already highly regarded health benefits. Broccoli lends itself well to most preparation techniques, but steaming, sauteing and simmering produce ideal, if not perfect, results. However, the key to cooking any food to perfection -- meat, starch or vegetable – lies in using a cooking method suited to the item and always seasoning to your personal tastes.
Rinse the broccoli and pat dry with paper towels.
Cut the florets from the stalk, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of stem.
Reserve the broccoli stalk for another use. Stalks take longer to cook than florets, and should not be combined. When using the stalk for other preparations, such as casseroles, begin by peeling away the tough exterior with a vegetable peeler. Cut the stalk into 1/3-inch cubes. Precise shapes are not as important as uniformity when cutting broccoli stalks.
Trim the florets, leaving 1/2 inch of stem. Separate small florets into bite-sized pieces by hand, and use a knife to cut large pieces in half. As with the stalks, the size and shape of the florets are not as important as their uniformity for even cooking.
Pour 3 inches of water in a saucepot and insert a steamer basket. Alternatively, fill a vegetable steamer to its fill line with water.
Cover the saucepot or steamer and bring the water to a boil.
Remove the cover and add the broccoli florets to the steamer basket. Reduce the heat to medium, replace the cover and steam until fork-tender but still firm, similar to al dente, approximately five minutes.
Remove the broccoli and season to taste with olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat for five minutes.
Season 2 cups of broccoli florets to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the florets to the pan.
Saute the broccoli until just cooked through, approximately three minutes. Toss the florets occasionally to cook them evenly.
Bring 1 qt. of water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Season the water to taste with kosher salt.
Taste the water for an indication of how salty the broccoli will be upon completion and adjust as needed.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the broccoli to the saucepan. Simmer the broccoli until fork tender, approximately five minutes.
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A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.