At Four Season Farm in Harborside, a big pot of broccoli and Cheddar soup was among the broccoli-inspired dishes prepared daily during the 12 days of Christmas. PHOTO BY BARBARA DAMROSCH

Mild weather spurs broccoli bonanza



On the first day of Christmas, my garden gave to me a great abundance of broccoli. In this bountiful year, such a windfall was not surprising. The spinach also was looking sumptuous, as were other brassicas such as kale and Brussels sprouts. Only the cauliflower had taken on a tan color and needed to be pulled out.

Since broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables I was ready to eat as much of it as possible. A cold snap could set in at any moment and turn all those delicious little side shoots into green popsicles.

The holiday season also had left the household well stocked with cheese. I’d bought up a great quantity for visiting family to munch on, and friends had sent even more our way.

Fortunately, broccoli and cheese are made for each other, so I cooked up a big pot of broccoli and Cheddar soup. That calls for a good sharp Cheddar to balance broccoli’s mildness, with a base of chicken broth, onions and a little cream at the end.

It was a big hit, so on the second day of Christmas I made a bubbly broccoli gratin, steaming the broccoli first and then baking it in a shallow dish with Monterey Jack and a breadcrumb topping. On the third day, a gift of French gruyêre inspired a fondue, for which I melted the cheese in dry white wine, and served it with toast and broccoli florets for dipping.

On the fourth day, I decided that the simplest broc-and-cheese dish would be steamed broccoli topped with a Mornay sauce, which is just cheese melted into a béchamel cream sauce. Instead of making the sauce with a flour and butter roux I just reduced the cream a bit, thickening it with the last of the Cheddar.

On the fifth day, the broccoli — and everything else in the garden — had frozen solid, but I was able to snap off broccoli florets with the urging of a small knife. They thawed in good shape, so I steamed them and tossed them into a fettuccini Alfredo, made with a chunk of Parmigiano/Reggiano. The other half, on the sixth day, topped a broccoli lasagna layered with ricotta mozzarella.

It’s useful to note which vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, can be harvested while still frozen. Robust greens such as kale and spinach can be picked after a number of freezes as long as you harvest them after they have thawed.

In any case, the broccoli was fine on the seventh day in a quiche, enlivened with crumbled Stilton. The eighth gave us a casserole of broccoli, onions, mushrooms and some excellent tomme. The ninth yielded something similar but made with a rich Catalan Garrotxa, rice and some scallions that were still firm and green.

On the 10th day, I picked all the remaining broccoli to store in the fridge. Larger clusters were dark and spongy in the center, but many small shoots were still okay, and could be eaten raw with an herb and goat cheese dip. On the 11th day, they went into a broccoli mac and cheese composed of all the last cheese fragments, from Welsh Caerphilly to tangy Wensleydale.

And on the 12th day of Christmas my true love said to me, “Could we maybe try a few Brussels sprouts?”

Barbara Damrosch

Barbara Damrosch

Barbara Damrosch’s latest book is “The Four Season Gardener’s Cookbook.”
Barbara Damrosch

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