Broccoli is a member of the Brassica family and is closely related to cauliflower. Its large, tight, flowering head is called a curd. Both the head and stalk are eaten as a vegetable.
This cruciferous plant has been called a superfood, because it is low in calories and contains plenty of nutrients and antioxidants that support many aspects of human health. With all of its benefits, broccoli hasn’t always been popular in the United States.
It is a different story in Greece and Italy, where broccoli has been a favorite vegetable for over 2,000 years.
Thomas Jefferson grew broccoli at Monticello in the early 19th century, but cookbooks printed at the turn of the century made little mention of it. Mary Randolph’s "Virginia Housewife," published in 1824 suggested one should cook broccoli “as asparagus.”
Italian families brought broccoli seeds to America and grew the vegetable in New York and Boston long before it was popular in other areas of the United States. It wasn’t until the 1920s that commercial producers began growing broccoli.
It seems there has always been a love/hate relationship with broccoli. Some people remember traumatic childhood meals, when they were admonished for not eating their stinky broccoli. I didn’t eat much broccoli growing up, but my experience was favorable.
While I enjoy eating broccoli in many ways, I have never had much luck growing it. Broccoli is a cool-weather plant, but with the fickle weather we have here, my plants were often decimated by worms before they were ready for human consumption.
I recently purchased a huge head of gorgeous broccoli at The Wild Ramp in Huntington. It was locally grown by Sammy Torres at Adelard Produce. In fact, the broccoli was so large, I was able to make several dishes with it.
For years, one of my favorite broccoli dishes has been Broccoli Pinwheel Pie that tastes like a fluffy cheese souffle baked in a pie shell. If you like broccoli, you will want to try this recipe.
Broccoli Pinwheel Pie
Single-crust pie shell
½ pound fresh broccoli
Salted boiling water
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup finely minced onion
3 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1-1/3 cups milk
3 eggs, separated
½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 475°.
Prepare the dough for the pastry. Fit the dough into a 9-inch pie pan. Crimp the edges. Line the crust with non-stick foil and fill with beans. Bake blind for 7 minutes.
Remove foil and beans. Put baked shell aside.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°.
Separate broccoli into spears about 3 inches long. Cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain. Set aside 6 to 8 uniform spears. Coarsely chop the remaining broccoli.
Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add onion. Sauté until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until blended.
In a small bowl, mix the milk with the egg yolks until smooth. Add to the flour mixture. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the Cheddar cheese and ¼ cup Parmesan. Stir the mixture until the cheeses melt.
Stir in chopped broccoli and remove from heat.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the cheese mixture. Pour the cheese mixture into the baked crust. Arrange broccoli spears in a pinwheel fashion on top with the heads sticking out of the cheese mixture. Press the stems below the surface.
Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until puffed and golden brown.
The souffle will fall slightly upon standing.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.