Broccoli and cauliflower add color, flavor and texture to salads, stir-fries, soups and casseroles. They are also a good source vitamin C and cancer-fighting antioxidants, according to the University of Maine. Get a head start on a meal by pre-cooking broccoli and cauliflower, and select a cooking method most suited to their final use. Cook them only until they are tender, though, because they'll continue to cook after you've removed them from the heat and may also cook a bit more when you reheat them. Overcooking them results in a disappointing, soggy mess.
To pre-cook cauliflower and broccoli for fresh vegetable trays, blanch them. Dip the broccoli and cauliflower in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and chill in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain them again and pat them dry with a paper towel. Store them in sealed containers in the refrigerator, or assemble the entire vegetable tray ahead of time, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Blanching retains crispness and color, while reducing the slightly pungent flavor associated with raw cruciferous vegetables.
Steamed broccoli and cauliflower come in handy for a variety of purposes. Cook them ahead of time and reheat as either a simple side dish or an ingredient in a casserole. Puree pre-cooked, steamed broccoli or cauliflower for use in soups, pestos or sauces. Mash them slightly for a nutritious toddler meal. To steam broccoli and cauliflower ahead of time, simply wash and trim the vegetables and place them in the steamer basket of a saucepan. Fill the saucepan with 2 inches of water and heat on medium-high heat to simmering. Steam the vegetables until they are just tender.
Roasting brings out a sweet, smoky flavor in broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables. To pre-cook broccoli and cauliflower, wash the stalks and cut the vegetables into 1 inch pieces. Pat them dry and place them on a baking sheet. Toss them with olive oil and salt and pepper them liberally. Roast them in an oven set at 450 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are crisp-tender and the tips are slightly caramelized. Don't burn them, though, which causes a bitter flavor. Cool the vegetables and store them in a covered container in the refrigerator. Reheat them in the microwave and add them to salads or serve with grilled meat.
Saute broccoli and cauliflower ahead of time if you plan to use them for stir-fries or salads. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and cook them quickly, stirring frequently. Remove them from the pan when they are tender. Microwave them to reheat or add them to a skillet with meat sauce and other vegetables.
When broccoli and cauliflower are cooked ahead of time, they lose some of their fresh flavor and texture. Pre-cooked broccoli and cauliflower work well for soups, casseroles or sauces, because the slightly limp texture is disguised in the final product. They may be somewhat disappointing in stir-fries that rely on fresh, crisp-tender vegetables, however.
- "Martha Stewart's Cooking School"; Martha Stewart; 2008
- "Great Good Food"; Julee Rosso; 1993
- University of Maine Extension; Broccoli and Cauliflower; Nellie Hedstrom; 2008