THE GOCHISO GOURMET: Brassica oleracea italica



Huh? Technically, it’s Brassica oleracea variation italica or that veggie that the 41st president refused to consume, the humble crown of broccoli. Why broccoli? For starters, broccoli crowns have been on sale in the 50th, ranging from $1.99 to $2.49 (yes, that is a sale price in the 50th) so I’ve been consuming my fair share these past couple of weeks. Secondly, I’ve liked broccoli ever since my childhood, when I viewed them as small trees and thought of myself as a Stegosaurus or Triceratops having a meal. I’m sure my parents didn’t mind me playing with my food if that meant I was consuming a vegetable without a fight.

Broccoli Production
Leading the world in broccoli production is China and India, which accounts for about 75 percent of the worldwide broccoli production. Following way behind is the U.S. (mostly in the Golden State), Mexico, Spain and Italy, which produces another measly 11 percent combined. Broccoli prefers cooler weather, probably explaining why the 50th doesn’t grow any, though one Nichi Bei Weekly columnist does consume his fair share in Hawai‘i.

Broccoli Nutrition
One hundred grams (roughly one cup of chopped raw broccoli) of broccoli provides virtually your total daily requirement of Vitamin C and K and is a good source of the B Vitamins, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and pyridoxine. It also provides a fair amount of thiamine, calcium, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, along with 2.6 grams of dietary fiber and just 34 calories.

Broccoli Casserole
This is my version of an original recipe from the late local Hawai‘i icon, Hari Kojima’s “Favorite Seafood Recipes” cookbook. Boomers grew up with Hari Kojima on “Let’s Go Fishing,” where he taught viewers how to clean and cut fish as one of the senior fish cutters at Tamashiro Market. His popularity on the show eventually got him the position of co-host for the show, which eventually expanded into “Hari’s Kitchen.” The original recipe was a crab and broccoli casserole made with a simple Mornay sauce and mushrooms. Instead of simply incorporating steam broccoli, I roast my broccoli with garlic and use a variety of smoked cheeses along with smoked paprika and salt.

About five heads of broccoli, cut to large bite sized pieces
About three to four cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil

Toss the broccoli with the garlic and olive oil, place on a roasting pan and cook at 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes — you don’t want to fully cook the broccoli as they also cook with the cheese sauce.

1 cup real crab or surimi (imitation crab) or the protein of your choice
1 and 1/2 cup roughly chopped mushrooms — any variety will work though I used Enoki and Shimeji as they were on sale.
2 tbsp butter

Quickly sauté the mushrooms until they release all of their moisture as you don’t want your casserole to turn into a soggy mess. If using seafood protein, add at the end to simply heat. Terrestrial proteins can be cooked with the mushrooms.

3 cups milk (I use skim milk for home consumption, regular milk for potluck dinner parties)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 tbsp (1/2 block) butter
2 cups of equal parts of assorted grated cheeses — I always add some Parmigiano Reggiano for the umami, I also added smoked Provolone, smoked white cheddar and smoked Gruyere.
2 tsp smoked paprika
Smoked salt and black pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium-high heat and added the flour whisking for several minutes until the flour/butter mixture is cooked and smooth then whisk in the paprika. Slowly add the milk continually whisking until it starts to thicken then add the grated cheeses until a smooth sauce forms.

Season with the smoked salt and black pepper.

Finally mix this sauce with the roasted broccoli and
protein/mushroom mixture, place in casserole and bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. If I take this to a potluck, I’ll top it with a mixture of Parmigiano, bread crumbs and olive oil to create a browned, crunchy top, for home consumption I bake without any topping.

As you may already know, there aren’t very many things that I don’t eat. Lesser, tough and often undesirable cuts of beef, pork or poultry. Bittermelon, natto and other foods that often appear or smell inedible. But I just can’t get myself to eat raw broccoli. When I see raw broccoli on a crudité platter, I avoid it like the plague. I once attended a potluck party and one of the guests brought a crudité platter that included broccoli but they apparently just quickly blanched the broccoli so it appeared steamed or boiled. Then I took that first bite and that grassy, raw quality immediately assaulted my taste buds. Lest I looked like a savage, I quickly munched the rest of the floret and quickly washed it down with a large gulp of red wine. And though I love any form of cooked broccoli, I just can’t get past the raw variety … unless it’s “cooked” in a vinaigrette.

Broccoli Slaw. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Broccoli Slaw
If you’re like me and can’t get past the herbal grassiness of raw broccoli, toss the pre-packed slaw with this miso vinaigrette and let it sit for about an hour. The flavors of miso and sesame oil masks the “green” raw flavor so that it seems like you’re simply munching on a carrot slaw.

One 12 ounce package of broccoli slaw (about four cups)
1 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp vegetable oil (I used garlic flavored macadamia nut oil)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp shoyu
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Wisk the last six ingredients then toss with the broccoli and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at

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