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Friday, August 07, 2009

broccoli salad with roasted peppers, capers & olives

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putting broccoli up for the winter

Mr. Vanderweele is giving away free broccoli again at the South Anchorage Farmers Market on Saturday! Last year he brought an entire tote of broccoli for our event, and you should have seen the hordes of people! Check out the photo, below, of the people lining up for their sweet, flavorful, and ever-so-nutritious Alaskan broccoli. (Have you tried it?)

As much as I love this event, and as much as I appreciate Mr. Vanderweele’s generosity, it does make my heart sink just a bit. This is high broccoli season, which means it’s time to buy my usual two cases of broccoli and put them up to freeze for the winter. Processing seventy pounds of broccoli does tend to take a bite out of one’s weekend.

This is the time of the summer when we suddenly realize that it’s almost over—all the rain we’ve had lately is a sure sign of waning summer. School is starting soon (already!), but can’t we just squeeze in one more camping trip? And speaking of squeezing, how will I make room for the salmon, blueberries, AND broccoli in my freezer?  Not to mention moose meat, if your husband is a successful hunter this year. Rats, I still have a few garden projects I was meaning to finish… (OK, start, and then finish). The firewood needs to be stacked, and the list goes on…  our summer is so short!

However, there are SO MANY REASONS to freeze Alaskan broccoli… My broccoli from the freezer is so much sweeter and tastier than anything I can buy in the wintertime in the grocery store—even the “fresh” stuff. And when I freeze the vegetables now, they will still be locally-grown when I thaw them out in February!! And best of all, it saves me so much time in the winter, when all I have to do is grab a bag out of the freezer! It really is the ultimate fast food.

So I’m going to share not only one of my favorite broccoli recipes, but also the method I use to line my chest freezer with quarts and quarts of broccoli to thaw out and eat during the winter. I made a handy YouTube Video so you can see the process for yourself! But the directions are written out, below, as well.


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processing broccoli to freeze

a case of broccoli

1. Cut about a ¼” off the stem end of each head of broccoli, and peel most of the skin from the bottoms of the stalks of broccoli, using a paring knife and starting from the bottom of the stem. The thick skin will peel away easily from the outside of the stalk.
2. Slice the stalks into coins about ¼” thick and put them all into a bowl. Cut the florets into bite-sized pieces and put them in a separate bowl from the stems.
3. Fill the biggest pot you have with water, bring it to a boil, and salt it well. Spread some large towels out on your countertop.
4. Dump a batch of broccoli into the boiling water (either stalks or florets, but not both at once). Cook for 3-4 minutes, or maybe 5 for the stalks, until just tender-crisp. Test with a sharp paring knife.
5. Scoop the broccoli out, shake the extra water off, and spread it out on the towels in a single layer. If you can, have a couple of windows open to help the broccoli cool and dry. Spreading the broccoli on towels like this stops it cooking immediately, and dries it nicely by evaporation.
6. When completely cool, put the broccoli in freezer ziploc bags, in whatever portions you like to cook at once. Keep the florets and stalks in separate bags. I like to freeze the sliced stalks separately, since they work so well for roasting, later.
7. Repeat with the rest of the florets and stalks until you’ve worked your way through the whole case. Then freeze the bags!
8. When you want to eat broccoli, just thaw out a bag and proceed with whatever recipe you want. I have several great broccoli recipes in the Farmers’ Market Cookbook—any of them will work wonderfully with broccoli from the freezer.

broccoli salad with roasted peppers, capers, and olives

This salad is a variation on one in Deborah Madison’s The Greens Cook Book. Using our sweet, flavorful Alaskan broccoli (whether fresh or out of the freezer in the winter) makes this salad just amazing! Make a double batch of this salad if you want, for great leftovers, but don’t add the vinegar to the portion of the salad you’ll be saving for the following day—it fades the green of the broccoli.

I often make this salad when I don’t have all the ingredients. Just so you know, it’s great without the red peppers, parsley, and scallions (just mince up some red or yellow onion), so just leap in and make it.

2 pounds broccoli (If using your frozen broccoli, thaw it and start at Step 4.)
2 roasted red peppers (see recipe, below)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or pressed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or less, if you like)
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
12 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
3 scallions, finely sliced (including the greens)
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons or more balsamic vinegar, to taste
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper

1. Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a pot that you can put a steamer basket in. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. When the water boils, put the broccoli stems in the steamer basket and steam for 4-6 minutes until barely tender. Check them every minute after 4 minutes, poking with a sharp paring knife.
2. Remove the stems, shake excess water off, and immediately spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet spread with a dishtowel. (This cools the broccoli quickly and allows it to dry out.)
3. Put the florets in the steamer, and steam for 3-5 minutes until barely tender, keeping a close eye on them. Remove the florets and spread them out on a dishtowel as with the stems.
4. Slice the roasted peppers into strips ½-inch wide and mix them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, juice from the peppers, capers, olives, scallions, parsley, and red pepper flakes, and, if you’ll serve the entire salad right away, the balsamic vinegar. Only add the vinegar to the portion of salad you’ll be serving immediately, since it fades the color of the broccoli. Season the mixture with salt.
5. Combine the broccoli and stems with the rest of the ingredients and toss them together. If you’re making enough for leftovers, take tomorrow’s portion out now and put it in the ‘fridge. Then, with your remaining salad, taste for salt, and add the balsamic vinegar and more oil and more vinegar as needed. Add a grinding of pepper, to taste.

roasted red peppers
I like to do roast of peppers at once (I get the big bags from Costco), and then use them as sandwich fillings, or in other salads. If you won’t finish them in a week, just pop some of them in the freezer to thaw out later.

red peppers

1. Preheat your grill or broiler. Roast the red peppers, turning them as each side gets blackened.
2. When they are blackened all the way around, place them in a big bowl and cover it with a lid or a plate until the peppers are fairly cool (this steams and cooks the peppers the rest of the way).
3. Peel the skins from the peppers and remove the seeds, but don’t rinse the peppers—just rinse your fingers as you peel the skins off. Slice the peppers into pieces as desired.


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