20 January 2011

Broccoli, or « des brocolis »

A few days ago I cooked some broccoli that I had bought at the supermarket. In American English, we pronounce that [BROCK-uh-lee], or sometimes in two syllables as [BROCK-lee]. I noticed recently that some speakers of English (not American) might pronounce it as [BROCK-uh-LYE].

In English, it's "broccoli" with two Cs. In French, it's brocoli with one C. That's confusing, at least to me. And in French it's often used in the plural, with an S: ce sont des brocolis.

I remember back in the 1970s, when I lived in Paris and Normandy, that there was no broccoli available at all. I missed it. I guess I started cooking and eating broccoli when I was in college and grad school, because I don't think we ate it at home in North Carolina when I was growing up. We ate turnip, mustard, and collard greens instead. And cabbage of course.

The only broccoli-like vegetable I could ever find in Paris all those years ago was broccoli rabe, which is not really the same thing. It was sold by Portuguese vendors in the farmers' markets, and I read now that rabe is much prized in Portugal and Galicia (northwestern Spain) as well as in Italy. It's called brocoli-rave in French but I never see it here in the Loire Valley. It's much used in China too and some call it Chinese turnip or Chinese cabbage. It's more bitter than the other broccoli, I think. It's good sauteed with garlic, apparently.

One French web site I've found says that broccoli was not much consumed in France until about 20 years ago, which would confirm my souvenir of the situation. A few years ago, I mentioned to an old French friend — a good home cook that I learned a lot from — that there was no broccoli in the markets in France back in the 1970s, but she was surprised and said she didn't really remember. I only remember because I remember missing it.

The Larousse Gastronomique food and cooking encyclopedia mentions broccoli, which it calls chou brocoli or "broccoli cabbage," but the author gives no recipes or cooking instructions. All it says is that you substitute broccoli in any recipe that calls for cauliflower. Cauliflower is abundant, delicious, and inexpensive in France. A lot of it is grown in Brittany, where the climate is mild and damp.

None of my other favorite old French cookbooks has any recipes for brocoli or even a mention of it, with one exception. Tante Marie, whose book La Véritable Cuisine de famille dates back to the 1920, does refer to « brocolis », calling it « choux d'Italie » (Italian cabbage), as a sort of afterthought appended to her collection of cauliflower recipes. She says to cook it in boiling water and serve it with a white sauce.

By the way, we had broccoli with the steak and kidney pudding that Susan and Simon of Days on the Claise brought over for lunch a few days ago. The steak and kidney pudding was very good, I thought, with it's suet "crust" — Susan described the dish as a big steamed dumpling filled with chunks of steak and beef kidney. Broccoli was good with it. I wish I had taken a picture.

And again by the way, I've now used up 98% of my photo allowance on Blogger. I have to figure out how to get more space on the server so I can continue posting pictures. I figure you probably know what broccoli looks like...


  1. Concerning your space problem on blogger, may be you could have a look at sites like http://imageshack.us who provide free media web hosting. Have a look at their FAQ to learn more about them.

  2. I didn't know blogger had a photo limit.
    We love broccoli, but at the grocery store, I usually buy it frozen, because what they have for sale fresh looks old and soft. At the market, I can find crisp heads of broccoli.

  3. I've noticed around the Gers that broccoli only turns up at farmer's markets in towns with a high expat concentration. When I went looking for seeds (which I finally found), more often than not you'll be supplied with Romanesco broccoli, or roman cauliflower.

    As for the image upload limit, it seems surprising to me that you've hit. I've been going for over 5 years with quite a photo-heavy blog but have yet to hit the limit.

    Are you reducing the file-sizes before upload? I generally export my raw images via Picasa to a size of max length 1024-1600 pixels, depending on content, and then I upload those.

  4. Hello Mike, yes I resize and compress (JPG compression) all the photos I put on the blog. Most of the uploaded pictures end up between 100K and 250K. But I've pretty much hit the 1 GB limit now.

    The broccoli I'm seeing right now at SuperU and Leclerc is very fresh and nice. And about half price compared to the price not very long ago.

    Ditdit, can you get frozen broccoli where you live? I guess I've never looked for it here in our supermarkets. I know they sell mixed veggies including broccoli in those poêlées packages, but I haven't ever bought those.

    Thanks, Jan. I'll check it out.

  5. I guess we live in good times for veggie variety. Growing up we ate limas, cabbage, corn, potatoes, beets, carrots and English peas with mustard greens sometimes. My dad grew a lot of that in our garden- oh, I forgot bell peppers and tomatoes.

    Sometimes we had cauliflower, but broccoli came later covered in cheese;)

    Today's news tells us that Walmart is going to offer cheaper veggies and their house brand is going to work on lessening sugar and salt ratios. This is good news for many people.

  6. Our exchange student from Peru had never seen broccoli. That was in 1989. I'll have to ask her if they have it now.

    I grew up in southern California in the 1950's. We ate frozen vegetables at home, and learned at school that CA supplied produce to the world. I didn't get the irony until my mid-20's.

  7. Broccoli was not commonplace in the UK when I was a child. The first time I remember eating it was at a dinner party in 1974. I remember the date because it was one of the first posh dinner parties I went to when I was a student. We certainly didn't get broccoli at home and I don't remeber seeing it on the marketstalls where ordinary folk shopped.

  8. I was getting close to my limit on Picasa, so I paid for the subscription to allow more and now I just link to photos or albums on Picasa from Blogger. I think eventually, one ends up paying, one way or another.

  9. Wordpress.com gives you a chance to upgrade to more space, but the initial allotment is quite generous. Good luck with solving this, because I do like all the pictures that you post!

  10. In Australia I heard an item on the news a month or so ago, that they are considering changing the law to enable broccoli to be advertised as a super food. Aparently it is sooo good for you that they believe an advert like that wouldn't be a lie.

  11. I got to eat broccoli only when I came to Canada. I was used to cauliflower only. However, when I go back to 'what was my home" I can buy broccoli at the market but they don't stay green for long - 2 or 3 days.
    The fast way I prepare broccoli these days is to fast fry it in peanut oil ( the oil does not burn at high heat) with some garlic and then add 4 or 5 Tbps of boiling water just to steam the cooking florets- done in 5 mins and very crunchy.

  12. I was talking to my French colleague (who is originally from the Lyon area, but has lived in the U.S. for maybe 25 years) recently, about broccoli, and she also said that she didn't remember ever seeing broccoli in France. I didn't remember ever seeing it back in the early 80s, either. Tante Marie ought to steam it, instead of putting it in boiling water, don't you think? :))

  13. I cook broccoli and other vegetables in a large amount of boiled water. I think it gives me more control over the degree of doneness than steam does. We like our vegetables kind of on the tender side rather than too crunchy or crispy. Affaire de goût...

    Good for broccoli and good for Australia, Sue.

  14. Ginette Mathiot says steam brocoli and serve with butter or creme fraiche, or sauce mornay. Those suggestions come from "La cuisine pour tous"

    My favorite is steamed then sauted with finely grated lemon zest and pepper (an Italian recipe)

  15. Craig, I don't have that book, but the one of Mathiot's that I do have, Je sais cuisiner, doesn't have any broccoli recipes at all.

  16. Too bad.

    Below is directly from her book:

    1018 Brocoli
    Sont une variete tres fragile de chou a fleurs. Ils doivent etre d' un vert gris sombre. Pour l'epuluchage, enlaver seulement les feuilles, laver tres delicatement. Le meilleur mode de cuisson est la vapeur. (Legume tres peu calorique, mais tres decoratif.)

    There are three more entries
    1019 Brocoli a la vapeur
    1020 Brocoli sauce Mornay
    1021 Brocoli en salade (crus ou cuits)

    This last one I think is a raw brocoli, bacon and hard boiled egg salad recipe. I don't speak French and I just barely read it so I would have to use a dictionary to translate the exact recipes. A friend of mine from Lyon gave me the book and said that Ginette was the Betty Crocker of France.

  17. Craig, the book that was Mathiot's master work is Je Sais Cuisiner (1970). That means "I know how to cook". I think the one you have was published earlier. Wonder why she dropped the broccoli recipes? Je sais cuisiner has information about and recipes for preparing cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and red cabbage.


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