Not sure why it was the chosen one, but broccoli in my house got an early distinction as the acceptable vegetable, even in an era of a broccoli hating president. It’s easy to steam and mix with a little butter and became the one chicken finger side, in addition to the baby carrots, that my kids did not ignore entirely.
I later wished I’d expanded the veggie repertoire a bit earlier. Why not push the broad spectrum of colors and textures from the outset? Do a little in-home marketing? Why leave it to the processed pushers to handle the sales pitch to kids so receptive to embracing the idea of fun food.
Broccoli’s Extreme Makeover
You might enjoy this interesting, fictitious tale (click on image below) put forth by Michael Moss of The New York Times and created by ad agency Victors & Spoils on what it would be like to back a healthy vegetable with some hefty marketing dollars, providing it a fighting chance against the food products made so desirable by advertisements.
This agency creates ads for huge brands like Coca Cola and Quiznos and was tasked with the challenge of elevating the broccoli image.
“Sara Brito, the ad team’s strategy director, summed up the information they’d gathered — and the predicament of trying to sell something that was drowning in negatives: “It’s overlooked and left behind,” she said. “It doesn’t matter in our culture. It has lost its confidence, succumbed to bullying and pressure. It’s content being on the sidelines.”
To draw some attention to the neglected broccoli, they created a faux campaign and pitted it against the veggie du jour King Kale to grab some of its limelight.
Both are worth a look as they touch upon the realities of junk food marketing, from the farmers working the land to the corporate teams developing sales strategies.
Broccoli vs. Kale: The Real Deal
Sure, kale is healthy, but broccoli too has creds. It’s high in antioxidants, protein and vitamins A and C. The research shows it’s really a nutritious draw.
But when it comes to establishing acceptance at the table, the only way you’ll succeed is by leaving the decision up to the eater. And pushing health benefits on kids will for sure turn that table on you. Call something nutritious and the prevailing response will be that it’s probably not quite as delicious as something less good for you, even when there’s the incentive to eat-it-because-it-will-make-you-big-and-strong. Maybe Popeye can make it happen, but not a mere mortal parent.
In order for broccoli to hold its place, the time had come for a preparation that was still simple but a bit more enticing than a coat of butter and sprinkling of salt. Otherwise, the pull to follow the popularity trail of prestigious kale or the runner-up brussels sprouts was hard to deny.
I enjoy and appreciate recipes like this Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad that you can bring along to a party and achieve great praise. Certainly a broccoli side dish would not be met with the same crowd-pleasing response. But truth be told, it’s recipes like the two below that I gravitate to when cooking at home.
Hope you enjoy and cheers to broccoli.
- 2 pounds broccoli (5-6 cups)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons good olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves, about 12 (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets. Cut into uniformly sized pieces.
- Arrange the florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer.
- Scatter the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast for 15-20 minutes until crisp-tender and some of the tips are browned.
- Remove from the oven and immediately toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, Parmesan and basil. Serve hot.
Adapted from Ina Garten
- 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, separated into small florets (about 5 cups) and stems, trimmed, peeled and cut on the bias into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3/4 cups)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably herb salt (I recommend Seasoning Salts referenced here.)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- In a large skillet, measure 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat on medium high for thirty seconds and add the broccoli stems, tossing to coat with oil.
- Spread in an even layer and don’t stir for two minutes until they just begin to brown.
- Add the florets and another tablespoon of olive oil. Spread in an even layer and don’t toss for another two minutes until beginning to brown.
- Add water and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until bright green but still crisp, about 2 more minutes.
- Remove cover and continue to cook until broccoli reaches desired doneness, about 1-2 minutes more.
- Transfer to a medium bowl. Squeeze lemon over and sprinkle with Parmesan or serve with sauce below.
Shallot Lemon Herb Sauce (Optional)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Melt butter in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the shallot, salt and pepper and stir occasionally until the shallots soften, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the garlic and stir just until combined and then immediately add the broccoli to the skillet. Give a quick stir and then add lemon juice and thyme.
- Serve immediately or leave on the stove and reheat slowly over a low flame when ready to eat.
Adapted from Tastebook.