Yet another member of the ever versatile Brassica family, broccoli is a central ingredient in healthy eating. The name comes from the Italian plural of broccolo, referring to "the flowering top of a cabbage" - broccoli has large flower heads, usually green in color, arranged in a tree-like fashion on branches sprouting from a thick, edible stalk. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Variants include broccoli rabe and broccolini, different cultivars that offer smaller heads on thin stalks, and more closely resembling flowers than trees..
Like the other Brassicae, broccoli evolved from a wild cabbage plant on the continent of Europe. Indications point to the vegetable being known over 2,000 years ago. Since the Roman Empire, broccoli has been considered a uniquely valuable food among Italians. Broccoli was first introduced to the United States by these immigrants, but was not widely known until the 1920's. Broccoli is now very popular around the world, and is often included in Asian cuisine as well.
Like other cruciferous vegetables of this family, broccoli is an excellent de-toxifier and immune booster, high in anti-cancer nutrients, beneficial in the prevention of heart disease and strokes, and especially helpful for diabetes-related illnesses of the circulatory system. Broccoli is high in calcium and vitamin C, yet is virtually non-fat, making it a better bone health food bargain than milk.
Sauté crushed garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil until fragrant and then add damp broccolini with a splash of soy sauce. Cover for a few minutes and then toss until wilted.
Sprinkle lemon juice and sesame seeds over lightly steamed broccoli.
Toss pasta with olive oil, pine nuts and healthy sautéed broccoli florets. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Purée cooked broccoli and cauliflower, then combine with seasonings of your choice to make a simple, yet delicious, soup.
Add broccoli florets and chopped stalks to omelets.
Use leftover steamed broccoli in salads.
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