The Banality of Broccoli

Broccoli and Freekeh Salad

Broccoli is (le sigh) a common green vegetable. For people who are unfamiliar with food, it’s a safe vegetable to cook. As a premier healthy vegetable, it’s more likely to be dropped in everyone’s shopping cart. A carnivore restaurant includes it in their vegetarian menu. As a home cook, I walk pass it in the grocery store, because there are exotic vegetables to discover.

Broccoli Floret and Leaves

My mind was visually challenged the other day when I noticed the produce section had a lush display of broccoli heads in their full regalia of leaves and long stalks. As a designer, the repetitive rows of green broccoli caught my creative eye. Even though broccoli wasn’t included in my menu plan, the beauty of the display cause me to pause.

Cracked Freekeh

The roast broccoli florets and raw leaves were mixed into a pilaf made with freekeh instead of rice. The broccoli florets were roasted in garlicky barley bread crumbs from Nine Chains (a bakery in Brooklyn), olive oil, parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon. For added color, raw broccoli leaves are mixed into the pilaf.

It was a dynamic side dish to a Provençal-Inspired Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes (recipe publishing soon). Together, freekeh and broccoli create a flavorful side dish worth steering a grocery cart towards the produce section where the non-exotic vegetables are displayed. Broccoli, especially with its leaves intact, is once again an exciting green vegetable to buy.

Broccoli and Freekeh Pilaf


  • 1 head of broccoli, if possible with leaves
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
  • 1 tsp. olive oil; more or less to taste
  • 1/2 cup fine, plain bread crumbs (alternatively use barley bread crumbs from Nine Chains)
  • 2 garlic cloves; minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese; divided
  • The juice of one lemon; halved
  • 1 cup of cracked freekeh
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock; more or less
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 to 3 scallions with ends trimmed; white part roughly chopped and green part sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Separate and reserve the broccoli leaves from the stem. Chop broccoli into about two-inch florets. Toss broccoli florets with a little olive oil, salt and black pepper over the baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk bread crumbs, salt, pepper, about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, garlic and a quarter-cup of shredded parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the broccoli. Squeeze half a lemon over the broccoli with the bread crumbs.
  4. Roast broccoli for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender with a slight crisp/bite.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the freekeh according to the manufacturer’s directions. Except use chicken stock instead of water, and stir a bay leaf, a little sea salt and black pepper to the freekeh. Once cooked, if necessary, drain the freekeh and discard bay leaf.
  6. As the freekeh and broccoli are cooking, horizontally cut broccoli leaves into thin strips, about a quarter-inch thick.
  7. In a large bowl, mix roast broccoli florets with breadcrumbs, cooked freekeh, cut broccoli leaves, scallions, the last quarter-cup of shredded parmesan cheese and the last half of the lemon juice. If necessary, adjust seasoning.
  8. Enjoy.

Broccoli and Freekeh Salad

3 thoughts on “The Banality of Broccoli

  • November 19, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Just made this — terrific! And it came just in the nick of time: I’ve had a head of broccoli I’ve been avoiding for a couple of days….this was a very tasty solution. Thanks!

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