20 Ways to Enjoy Broccoli Stalks
Recently a friend called me and asked if I’d like a big batch of broccoli stems. She was freezing broccoli from her garden, and usually purees the stems to use for soups, but didn’t have room this year in her freezer. “Sure!” I said, and the next morning a big bag of stalks was on my doorstep.
For some people it’s weird, I know. Broccoli stems are often seen as trimmings, and discarded. I really like the flavor, though. I think stems taste sweeter and less bitter than the florets. They also don’t have the grainy floret texture that children and others sometimes find objectionable.
The thickest part of the stalks may need the fibrous outer layer peeled off. It can be tough to chew. I use a vegetable peeler to make a quick job of it. If you slice across the stem to make thin “coins”, you don’t need to peel at all. Thin slicing makes the fibers so short that they are not chewy.
Here are twenty interesting ways broccoli stems can be eaten:
1. Simplest of all is to peel off the thin fibrous outer stem and cut the center into sticks to eat raw (like carrot sticks).
2. Cut on the diagonal to make long oval “coins,” and serve with your favorite locavore dip (such as Sour Cream Oregano Dip).
3. Peel the stems and make long shavings using a vegetable peeler. Steam the shavings, drizzle with melted butter and add minced fresh lemon balm, basil, sage or tarragon.
4. Peel, dice, and add to pasta salad.
5. Slice into coins and use as a pizza topping. (See Locavore Pizza recipe.)
6. With large stems, peel first, cut into chunks, brush with oil, and grill on skewers.
8. Peel, dice, and mix with mushrooms, carrots, onions and other veggies as a wrap filling. If you like, saute in butter first.
9. Peel and cut into chunks. Sprinkle with apple cider vinegar, melted butter, and add chopped garlic. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees F. for about 40 minutes or until softened and browned. Blend with hazelnut oil (Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, Lynden) and use as pesto.
10. Peel stalks, cut into chunks and add bacon, cheese, and dried cherries for an unusual slaw salad. Use your favorite slaw dressing. (For example, try this recipe using the ingredients above instead of napa cabbage.)
11. For a quick soup, saute broccoli stem “coins” with onions and garlic (6-7 minutes), add 2-4 cups stock, salt and pepper, and blend.
12. For quick pickled broccoli, heat brine from jarred pickles. Pour over thinly sliced stems, and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.
13. For a dish that looks elegant, peel the stems and cut into two inch pieces. Tourne each piece (carve into a sort of football shape), and saute in butter.
14 to 16. Here’s an idea I found on Kir’s Simple Foodie & Soiree Blog ( blog.simplesoirees.com ) that’s really three ideas in one. First saute a quarter cup of chopped onion and two minced garlic cloves in butter. Add 2-3 cups of peeled diced broccoli stems and 3-4 cups of soup stock. Boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about an hour. When broccoli is soft enough, blend the soup with a blender (stick blender is easiest). Be sure to leave the center cap open if you use a regular blender to vent the hot steam. Now you have a broccoli soup base. You can freeze it for use later, or continue with one of the following options:
Option 1–Broccoli Soup with Herbs: Make a roux by melting 2 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan and slowly adding 2-3 Tbsp flour, stirring constantly. Mix the roux into the warm soup base and simmer until the soup has thickened to your liking. Add salt, dried habanero pepper powder, and fresh thyme to taste.
Option 2–Broccoli Soup with Cheddar: Shred about 1 cup of local cheddar cheese and slowly added this to the warm soup base. Add salt and fresh thyme or tarragon to taste. Serve with a crusty bread and sliced cheddar for a warm rainy day meal.
Option 3–Broccoli and Sweet Potato Soup: Peel and cook a sweet potato (either steam or microwave) until soft. Hand blend into 3-4 cups of the soup base. Season with salt and a tiny pinch of dried habanero pepper powder to taste. Delicious!
17. Peel the broccoli stems, steam well (about 10 minutes), and mash with sauteed chard, garlic, salt and habanero pepper.
18. Peel, grate, and add the stems to potato pancakes or latkes.
19. Saute peeled and diced stems with butter, sprinkle with finely grated cheese, and brown in oven under broiler (just a few minutes).
20. Peel and dice broccoli stems into small cubes. Dehydrate, using an oven or dehydrator set to 150 degrees F. Grind the dried cubes into powder with a food processor. Store the powder in an airtight container. You might want to freeze it to prevent any remaining moisture from spoiling it. Use the powder to make a quick cream of broccoli soup: mix dried onions and dried broccoli powder with some boiling soup stock to make the desired consistency; let sit about 5 minutes; add a little heavy cream, and top with grated cheddar. Add salt and a tiny pinch of dried habanero pepper powder.