I love broccoli in all its forms: the year-round green, fat-headed bunches (the only time fat-headed is not an insult!) – perfect for chopping and throwing in soups and pasta, as well as the more delicately-shaped purple sprouting broccoli that is so welcome come early spring. My own purple sprouting broccoli is a miracle survivor in my garden; I’m still snipping its now-waning and rather skimpy stalks and using some most days, although it is now verging on July. That’s Scotland for you!
But, as the purple stuff goes I replace it mostly in the form of Tenderstem® rather than the chubbier calabrese that I grew up eating. With calabrese it is all about the head, its unwieldy and intimidating bulk made more manageable with dividing and conquering. It always feels a bit like performing minor surgery, hacking away with my trusty Japanese knife. Perhaps it is just as well I am not a doctor…With Tenderstem® the clue is in the name, tender stem. The stems are supple and so sweet for something so green and well, vegetabley; the florets small and fairly open, bursting into tiny yellow flowers if left too long – very pretty but that is an indication that it is a little past its best.
One of the most appealing things about Tenderstem® is that you eat the whole thing, only neatening up the ends where they were cut from the growing plant. No hacking into florets and chucking out the often-tough stem of a calabrese variety (although I peel it with a vegetable peeler and use it too, as well as nibble some as I cook – so sweet!).
Minimal cooking too gets the best from this fabulous and delicately-flavoured summer vegetable – steamed, griddled, briefly roasted, raw (wonderful dipped into hummus). But please don’t waste it on soup. Well, waste is harsh but you would need a few packs or bunches to make a soup where a single small calabrese would be perfect.
For this recipe I have you use the WHOLE plant. You make a quick sauce with the lower half of the stalks and leave the thinner, frondy, showy end for topping the polenta. I have instructed for sautéing and cooking the sauce, but if you have a super-blender type thing like my Froothie, then just literally bung everything in the jug (no oil though) and blend until warm and ‘cooked,’ keeping those lovely, water-soluble nutrients intact.
As a fan of Tenderstem® I was more than chuffed to be contacted by the company itself (who knew they were an actual company?) to come up with a recipe for their latest campaign, #tenderstemdatenight. Using some of the bits that came with their lovely wicker hamper (daughter snapped that up in a hurry) – namely olive oil and the broccoli itself, although they also included anchovies, citrus and a really very nice curry sauce I used in something else (oops!) – I wanted to make an easy recipe. Because the last thing you want on date night is faffing and running around while your date/partner is drumming his or her fingers on the table. Or drinking all the wine…
To make it quicker the sauce can be made ahead and just reheated with a little squirt of lemon to freshen it, and the polenta too can be made ahead and just warmed gently on the hob with splash of water or milk. But it is quick and easy to do on the night itself with all the ingredients organised and ready to roll – have the pine nuts toasted, broccoli chopped, the cheese crumbled, the kettle boiled. You can make this so quickly that you will have time to get to the movies or catch that concert. But it is also so good that you may just stay for seconds.
For more information on Tenderstem® nutrition (it is a superstar, cancer-fighting brassica), more recipes and competitions just click this link. It is a very attractive website and I have found a few recipes I wish to try soon.
Disclosure: this is a sponsored post.
Soft Polenta with Broccoli-Blue Cheese Sauce & Griddled Tenderstem®
Yes, this is a “double broccoli” recipe – no waste! You use the lower stems to make a simple sauce, blended with a quality blue cheese. Vegans, use vegan blue cheese crumbles or nutritional yeast (for the latter you would use less water in the sauce). Whatever your dietary needs fry up some capers until they are almost crisp – a truly delish garnish.
If you don’t have a griddle pan, oil the broccoli as indicated and roast in a 180C/350F oven for 7-8 minutes, or until the florets are slightly browned.
If you aren’t a fan of polenta or want to keep it wholegrain, cook up some amaranth or quinoa.
1 pack of Tenderstem® broccoli, or similar, long stalked broccoli – the floret end cut to 4-5 inches and the remainder roughly chopped for the sauce
1 tbsp olive oil, divided use
2 spring onions/scallions, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced – optional: it is date night after all!
75g (2.6 ounces) best quality blue cheese, divided use (see above for vegan options)
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and patted dry
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
240ml (2 cups) water
100ml milk of any kind, but with some fat (1/2 cup) – or water
80g (1/2 cup) instant polenta or maizemeal (I used white maizemeal)
1. To make the sauce, heat 1 tsp of the oil in a small pan, add the spring onions, chopped broccoli ends and garlic, sautéing until the garlic is soft. Add 120ml (1/2 cup) water and bring to a fast simmer. Put a lid on and simmer for a few minutes. Blend with 50g of the cheese and set aside, covered. You can make this ahead if you like.
2. For the broccoli stalks, rub with 1 tsp of oil and cook on a stovetop griddle over a medium flame, turning to evenly cook the broccoli. I think it is best with quite a lot of crunch, but that’s your call. Set aside but keep the griddle hot.
3. Heat the remaining oil in the griddle pan and add the capers, sautéing until slightly crispy.
4. Now, for the polenta. Bring the water and the milk (or all-water) to the boil –making sure it doesn’t boil over. Slowly add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking at the same time to ensure no lumps. Keep whisking until thickened – about five minutes or as directed on your packet.
5. To serve, spoon polenta into shallow bowls, swirl in the sauce, top with the griddled Tenderstem® broccoli, fried capers, pine nuts and extra blue cheese.
This makes enough for four servings of polenta so it is perfect for seconds, but is also great reheated gently with a little extra water and served with a savoury breakfast.
Note: for soft food diets blend half a pack of broccoli, adding additional water to make the sauce. Or use the whole pack to make a larger batch of sauce, with more cheese and onions.