Broccoli was in the news this week as a surprise, feel-good vegetable. Some of it turned up in this week’s Market Roundup of what’s in at area farmers markets — so how could we go wrong in offering a refresher course in how to shop for, store and cook it?
We saw perhaps the season’s first appearance of gooseberries as well. Hence, double the information from the Food section’s Market Watch archives, and some of our favorite ways to dispatch the berries and the crunchy green vegetable, via Recipe Finder.
We’re not suggesting you combine the two ingredients, mind you. But if you do so to great effect, send us details. The effort might earn you a cookbook.
BROCCOLI: It’s rich in vitamins, high in fiber and calcium and low in calories. A medium-size stalk of broccoli provides more than twice the suggested daily amount of vitamin C and 15 percent of your daily value of vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene; anti-oxidant power). The main variety of broccoli grown in the United States is Calabrese.
BUYING, STORING AND COOKING: In grocery stores, you’ll find produce bins filled with crowns, the florets tightly clustered together in single heads, removed from the stems on which they were grown. They come at a price, often far more expensive than the cost per pound of an entire broccoli spear. If you have the option, however, buy broccoli on the stalk, because it can be peeled and grated into coleslaw and used in stir-fries and soups as well. Refrigerate in an airtight bag for up to 4 days.
Broccoli-Pesto Pasta . Kid-friendly from Molly Katzen; pack it in a lunch for camp or school.
Chicken and Rice Bake . An easy make-ahead dish that doubles easily.
Curried Broccoli and Chicken . A Cooking for One recipe from Joe Yonan.
Roasted Rumble Bumble With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
. A colorful, meatless main course served with mesclun greens.
GOOSEBERRIES: Etymologists have long speculated about the origins of the name. One plausible theory suggests that gooseberry is actually a corruption of the French word groseille, or red currant, a relative of the berry.
Gooseberries are fragile orbs with pale veins running from top to stem. Such a delicate appearance belies a mouth-puckering tartness in the more commonly found varieties. Berries range from smooth to fuzzy on the outside, firm to mushy on the inside, and translucent to fairly opaque throughout. Cultivated in a variety of colors, the pale white, yellow and
green berries generally indicate a sour flavor while the pink and darker purplish hues are sweeter.
They are distinct from the cape gooseberry, otherwise known as the ground cherry; they are high in vitamin C and a plentiful source of fiber and potassium. They figure prominently in fool recipes (sweetened fruit sauce folded into whipped cream) and in preserves, pies, tarts and chilled soups.
The sharp acidity level of gooseberries also graces savory sauces, making a pleasing contrast with the richness of roast meats and poultry, such as pork, goose or duck, as well as with somewhat oilier fish.
Their season normally begins in early July and lasts through early August.
BUYING AND STORING: The variety of gooseberry most commonly found in supermarkets is small, pale green and tart. Look for berries that are taut-skinned, even-colored and firm. It is a rare treat to find the sweeter pink or purple varieties.
Gooseberries remain firm and bright for two to three weeks if refrigerated. With time, they gradually become softer and slightly sweeter while developing a slightly pinkish hue. If you find yourself up to your elbows in gooseberries, freeze them for future use.
CLEANING: Wash the berries under cool water and remove the tops and tails that once attached the berry to the bush with a knife or scissors.
COOKING: They can be poached in a simple sugar syrup and served as a chilled soup (often with elderflower) or spooned over shortcakes. For a wonderful savory sauce, add berries and a bit of brown sugar to the defatted pan juices from roast meats or poultry and simmer about 10 minutes, crushing the berries slightly.
A couple of cooking caveats: Green gooseberries take on a rather unappealing khaki-colored cast when heated. This is easily remedied by first refrigerating the berries for about 10 days to evoke a pinkish hue, or simply stir in a few blackberries. Also poach them gently over low heat
as the berries tend to collapse if exposed to high heat.
If you can locate the sweet pinkish variety of gooseberries, by all means pop them straight in your mouth or enjoy them with a dusting of confectioners' sugar and a splash of cream.
Gooseberry and Currant Crumble . The tartness of these fruits works quite nicely in a warm dessert topped with oats, brown sugar and cinnamon.