Broccolini with Chandra Collins
“What Is Broccolini, is it just baby broccoli, or what?
Broccolini is definitely cute. It has little florets and leaves and comes packaged in adorable little bunches. It just seems more graceful than big, green, clunky heads of broccoli in every possible way. But even though broccolini is cute, the name might suggest otherwise, broccolini isn’t baby broccoli. So, what is broccolini?
Well, I’ll tell you one thing: It sure isn’t broccoli rabe either, even though it looks the part. Broccolini is more closely related to broccoli than bitter broccoli rabe, which is actually in the turnip family. Broccolini, like the broccoli we all know and love, is in the brassica family, along with cabbage and Brussels sprouts. But it isn’t immature broccoli.
Broccolini is actually a cross-breed of broccoli and Chinese broccoli, a leafy vegetable commonly called ‘gai lan’ in Cantonese or ‘jie lan’ in Mandarin. You get the florets found in broccoli and the longer stems and leaves found in Chinese broccoli. It’s a mix of the two. And when it comes to flavor, broccolini also lands somewhere in the middle. It’s mellower and less bitter than standard-issue broccoli, with a mild sweetness much more akin to Chinese broccoli. But my favorite part of broccolini is its texture. The long stems have a pleasant crunch, and the ratio of stem to leaf to bud is pretty perfect, if you ask me.
Cooking with broccolini is a dream. It requires a lot less prep than regular broccoli does—no stem-peeling necessary, just cut off the last inch or so from the bunch and you’re good to go. After that, you’ve got options. A quick toss in olive oil and a few pinches of salt is the simplest way to season them pre-roast or pre-sauté. Roasting broccolini around 425° will give you very crispy florets and perfectly-cooked stalks, while sautéing over medium heat will make the broccolini tender throughout with just the right amount of snap in the stem. You can also grill broccolini in a grill basket to pick up a nice char or blanch the broccolini in boiling water for a few minutes for a fresh, snappy final product. The amazing thing about broccolini is that the stems are thin and tender, so you don’t have to worry about overcooking the delicate florets waiting for the bottom parts to cook.
Long story short: Getting broccolini into the rotation is easy. No special equipment or expertise is required. Just treat it like prepped broccoli or string beans and you’re in the clear. But remember, even though it’s small, cute, and mild: It’s not baby broccoli!”