Given a little steam, broccoli can become a star player

But one of the best ways to cook broccoli is to barely steam it, until it gets bright green and glossy, just barely tender and still possessing a little crunch.
But one of the best ways to cook broccoli is to barely steam it, until it gets bright green and glossy, just barely tender and still possessing a little crunch.PHOTO: GORAN KOSANOVIC FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

UNITED STATES (The Washington Post) -I am a brassica believer. Give me cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts or broccoli, and I am happy. But I also realise that everyone does not feel the same way. They have had stinky, mushy cabbage, or tough kale, or drab and overcooked broccoli, and they cannot imagine it can be any other way.

It can. Take broccoli. You can roast it, broil it, saute it - or even leave it raw and slice it thin. But one of the best ways of all might be to barely steam it, until it gets bright green and glossy, just barely tender and still possessing a little crunch. Then do little else except combine it with powerful flavours that bring out its best.

That is what Deborah Madison, guru of vegetarian cooking, does in her new cookbook, In My Kitchen. It is a collection of new and favourite recipes - with many of the latter streamlined, the way you do when you make something over and over. Her wise moves: to pair the broccoli with sharp lemon, feta, olives, capers and herbs, and to dress it while it is warm so that all those flavours mingle and become positively aromatic.

This is a broccoli salad that might just turn you into a believer, too.

Broccoli With Roasted Peppers, Feta, Olives and Herbs

4 to 6 servings

Feel free to change up the herbs, the cheese and even the centerpiece ingredient, using cauliflower instead of broccoli.

Serve warm, at room temperature or cold - as a hearty side dish or with extra greens and grains or with a piece of bread to bulk up to main-course status.

Adapted from In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison (Ten Speed Press, 2017).

Ingredients
680g broccoli (on the stem)
½ tsp coarse sea salt, or more as needed
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more as needed
1 heaping Tbs chopped fresh oregano or marjoram leaves
3 Tbs highest-quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs capers, rinsed and drained
1 heaping Tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into thin strips (see NOTE)
12 pitted Kalamata olives
85g feta, ricotta salata or manouri cheese, slivered or crumbled
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar

Method
1. Cut the broccoli crown(s) off its thick stem, then cut into florets. Peel the stem with a paring knife and cut into rounds or strips. Combine the florets and stem pieces in a steamer basket set over a pot with a few inches of boiling water; cover and cook until they are bright green and tender-firm, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Transfer to a shallow bowl. While the broccoli is still warm, season with the salt, crushed red pepper flakes and oregano or marjoram, then toss with the oil to coat. Add the capers, parsley, roasted pepper, olives and cheese; toss again, gently, to incorporate. Taste and add more salt and crushed red pepper flakes, as needed. Toss with the lemon juice or vinegar just before serving.

NOTE: To roast the bell pepper, position an oven rack 15cm from the broiler element; preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the pepper on the baking sheet; broil until charred black on all sides, turning it with tongs as needed. Transfer to a heat-proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam. Once the pepper is cool enough to handle, rub off and discard the charred skin; also discard the stem and seeds.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 6, using feta): 160 calories, 6 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 600 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar