Crispety, crunchety, tang. That’s all I taste when I sink an incisor through one of these slices of spring green. All it took was a splash of lemon juice, glug of olive oil, sea salt, and a few minutes’ time marinating to bring something like broccoli stems to this level.
I’ve been eating way too many sandwiches that have an assortment of some of these things inside: capers, a hard-boiled egg, anchovies, tuna, shallots or red onion, and home-pickled vegetables, usually the quick kind. Lately, this has been raw carrot slices, chilled in an equal ratio of white vinegar to water. Sometimes it’s the onions, or the egg. Well, broccoli stems are a great candidate for quick-pickling much like those carrots, too. I took a slightly different route with them this time, and gave them a sort of quick-marinade instead.
It’s a lovely sandwich or salad filler. The broccoli stems were sliced up, and doused with plenty of olive oil and fresh lemon juice rather than vinegar. It doesn’t completely overpower the stems’ delicate flavor, which reminds me of the thick ribs of cabbage you come across now and then in coleslaw.
It only really works — well, that is — if you have a nice, fresh cluster of broccoli, and its stem is super brittle and moist. (Dry, rubbery stems and slightly yellowish or brownish florets are signs of oldness.) The skin of the broccoli stem can be an issue, too: if you find it too thick and fibrous, simply shuck it off with a knife. It’s a matter of taste, though, and depending on the stem, sometimes I do it, sometimes I don’t.
This is just one way of bringing a commonly uneaten part of the plant to a more palatable form. There are hundreds of other ways to eat broccoli stems (like celery sticks, in stir fries, stuffing into sushi rolls… ), and other forgotten vegetable parts that can be enjoyed in the same way (cauliflower stems). But if you’re ever in a pickle for a pretty good pickle or crisp addition to a salad, salvage some good broccoli stems for the cause.
Marinated Broccoli Stems, Egg, Feta, Capers & Red Onion on Toast
(makes 2 snack-sized servings)
stem of 1 or 2 broccoli clusters (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
black pepper (optional)
1 large egg
1 small shallot, sliced (or a few slices fresh red onion)
1 tsp capers
few slices Greek feta
2 slices toast
Cut dry end off of broccoli stems. If desired, cut away the skin of the broccoli stem. Slice thinly. Mix thoroughly with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and optional pepper. Set aside.
Meanwhile, hard-boil egg. Cool, and peel shell. Chop egg into thick slices. Divide among the two slices of toast, and assemble the remaining ingredients on top.
(for 2 small servings)
2 slices bread (at $5/loaf): $0.50
1 egg (at $4/dozen): $0.25
broccoli stem (at $3/lb including floret): $0.50
1 small shallot: $0.30
few small slices Greek feta: $0.30
Tb fresh lemon juice: $0.15
1 tsp capers: $0.30
olive oil, sea salt, pepper: $0.25
Three brownie points: Broccoli is a great source of fiber and phytochemicals, and the stems are no exception. True, they carry less antioxidants and Vitamin K than their deep green neighbors. But they don’t hurt, either, which is a good thing when there’s a good amount of fats to go around in this sandwich (from the egg, feta and oil).
Eight maple leaves: Using up stuff that otherwise ends up in the compost is always a good start for this score. Here, the stems were a byproduct of a broccoli (crown) stir-fry and several omelets. Aside from that ingredient, the others are pretty low-impact, save for that non-local lemon, capers and cheese.