We love broccoli. It’s so good and delivers great taste and terrific nutrients to promote good health. You can tell just by looking at it! The best, freshest broccoli has such a deep green color, tinged with purple. It’s a visual as well as a culinary treat. Have I won any converts?
Perhaps those who confess to hating broccoli were forced, as children, to eat broccoli, boiled to sulfury excess, the broccoli, not the children. It should be steamed or sauteed, or even eaten raw, as it is often served in a vegetable tray as an hors d’oeuvre. Some people prefer to blanch the broccoli for a minute and then to refresh it in ice water instead of serving it raw.
Sauteed with garlic slivers it is delicious. Steamed and garnished with grated parmesan it is delightful. Served with cheese sauce it is dreamy and rich. Added to a stir-fry it is de-lovely. Let’s face it. It’s versatility makes it doggone essential in a well-stocked kitchen. Toss it in a salad. Make it into a soup, or a vegetable on the side use it for a vehicle for delivering creamy dips to the mouth!
I’m going overboard here, I realize. So, without further ado, I offer an idea for a make-ahead vegetable casserole using broccoli or cauliflower, or both combined, as their tastes are much the same, cauliflower being a bit more delicate, perhaps.
(To make it ahead, prepare it up to baking it in the oven, step 5. Cover with foil and refrigerate until ready to bake. Add 10-15 minutes to the baking time, or bring to room temperature before baking, uncovered.)
1 large bunch of broccoli, 2 pounds or so
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 c. milk, whole if you can spare the fat and calories, lower fat if necessary
salt and pepper to taste
1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, you can grate your own if you wish
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, swiss, or gruyere, whatever you prefer)*
bread crumbs, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 350-375 degrees.
2. Break up the broccoli into large florets. Drop into a pot of boiling salted water and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until just beginning to be tender. Drain the broccoli and set aside.
3. Make a white sauce by melting the butter in a heavy saucepan, adding the flour when the butter starts to bubble. Stir the flour for a couple of minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour and whisk in the milk. Keep whisking to prevent it from scorching on the bottom of the pan. When it is thickened and bubbly, remove it from the heat and add the seasonings and most of the cheese. Keep some back to sprinkle on the top later.
4. Butter a gratin dish or other shallow ovenproof pan. Spread the broccoli in the pan and pour the cheese sauce over it. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. You may also strew bread crumbs on top of the sauce if you wish.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 or 25-30 at 375, or until the top of the casserole is browned.
* I prefer to use gruyere and parmesan combined, although cheddar is my husband’s favorite.