When it comes to green vegetables and eating health-enhancing foods, I have some work to do. I grew up with a bad attitude toward them, partly due to an overly positive view of sweets and treats, and a little bit of the fact that most of what came my way as a baby-boomer kid was factory-canned into submission and heated for far too long a time on the red-hot coil of an electric stove.
Our moms must have thought those peas, green beans, carrots, and mixed vegetables were dangerous and needed ritual purification. A pat of margarine on top did a little to redeem them, but not much. Back then, vegetables were still a bargaining chip; Ice cream from a big box or instant pudding were rewards earned by getting them down. In my early 20’s, I was lucky enough to spend three years living and working in Southeast Asia, where people think vegetables are good and delicious, another edible item to be appreciated and enjoyed.
I learned this way of cooking broccoli from The Key to Chinese Cooking, by Irene Kuo. It’s a superb, comprehensive cookbook, filled with both complex dishes and can-do recipes like this one, which quickly became a standard in my kitchen. It’s the kind you make a few times and then forget there’s a “recipe” for it. And you want to make it again and again because it’s good.
All you need are broccoli florets (keep the stems — they’re delicious! Recipe later this week for those…), garlic and fresh ginger, salt, chicken stock or water, and Asian sesame oil for aroma and nutty flavor at the very end of cooking.
Here’s everything ready to go — along with a little vegetable oil to get everything going in the wok or big deep skillet.First the garlic and ginger go sizzling into hot oil. just until they release their flavor. A toss or two for a minute or two, until they brighten and begin getting tender.Once they’ve wilted just a bit, you add the salt and the chicken stock or water and cover for about 3 minutes more. Remove the lid, toss well, add the sesame oil, and voila! Excellent, inviting and easy to enjoy with rice; with steak or salmon; with omelets; with quinoa and tofu curry, with burgers and fries. It’s just good, even on the breakfast table with salsa and eggs.What’s wonderful is that it tastes great cold — enjoy it hot or warm, and then don’t even worry about reheating the next day. We consider it finger food around here, the kind you grab while putting dinner on the table.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
- 5 slices fresh ginger (about the size of a quarter/25-cent piece)
- 4 cups broccoli florets*, bite-sized
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup chicken stock or water
- 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
- You will need a wok, or a large, deep skillet, such as a big cast iron frying pan. You need a lid too. As long as it can hold all the broccoli, you are fine. Heat the oil over medium high heat until it is very hot, when a little bit of the garlic sizzles at once, you are ready.
- Toss the garlic and slices of ginger into the hot oil and toss well. Let it all heat up and sizzle until it releases its lovely fragrance, 30 seconds or so. Don't let it brown...
- Add the broccoli and toss well. Then spread it out in a single layer, up the sides of the wok if using one. Cook about 1 minute undisturbed.
- Toss well again and let it cook for another minute undisturbed.
- Add the salt and toss well. Add the chicken stock or water and cover at once as it steams up wildly. Cook for 3 minutes.
- Remove the cover and toss well. Add the Asian sesame oil, toss once, and turn the broccoli and any liquid (not much if any) out on to a serving plate. Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature.
Here’s to lots of good green food in 2017. Let me know what everyday vegetable dishes are in your weeknight repertoire.