- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2005

If your acquaintance with broccoli is limited to the thick-stalked bouquet of buds in your supermarket, you’re missing out on the marvelous range of flavors in the BASIC family.

Fortunately, as adventurous farmers bring more varieties to market, you have greater opportunities to enjoy this healthful, low-calorie and flavorful vegetable.

Broccoli raab (also called rabe or rapini), a favorite vegetable in Italian cuisine, is becoming more popular in the United States. The vegetable has long, thin stalks, long, edible leaves, and small clusters of florets. The taste is slightly bitter, so you’re going to want to mix it with other vegetables in a stir-fry or skillet dish. You’ll find broccoli raab in small bunches that serve one or two.

Chinese broccoli, which was once exclusive to Asian markets, is now more commonly available in supermarkets. It looks similar to broccoli raab but is leafier and may have blooming buds. If you find broccoli raab too bitter, milder-tasting Chinese broccoli may be the better choice.

Romanesco broccoli is identifiable by its pale green color and clusters that form a mosaic pattern in the head. The romanesco has a nutty taste you’ll notice when you eat the vegetable raw in a salad or as a snack with dip. This broccoli will last for days in the refrigerator, so you don’t have to worry about it spoiling before you finish the head.

Spicy shrimp and broccoli

½ pound Chinese broccoli, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths

4 ounces fusilli pasta

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 serrano chili

1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

½ pound large peeled raw shrimp

2/3 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add broccoli and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Don’t discard water.

Add fusilli to boiling water, stir and cook 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.

While fusilli is cooking, heat vegetable oil in large skillet.

Add garlic, chili and mushrooms. Saute 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Add shrimp, broccoli, chicken broth, hoisin sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until shrimp is cooked and broccoli is tender.

Remove chili, if desired. Stir in fusilli. Sprinkle scallions over.

Makes 2 servings.

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