While making this dish I had a flashback to dinners with my family, and seeing my mom suck the marrow out of chicken bones at the dinner table. At the time, even before I was a vegetarian, I thought it was pretty gross. As an adult though, I have a different thought. If there’s tasty stuff inside there, why not eat it? I’ve had this idea for a while, so I’m happy to launch what I hope will become a regular feature on this blog: Vegetarian Offal. Offal traditionally refers to internal organs and other undesirable cuts of meat that have really started to become popular in the last few years. And while nose-to-tail eating has become popular among carnivores, many vegetarians also care about using as much of our ingredients as possible.
I can’t remember where I first read about “broccoli marrow” but the idea immediately appealed to me. I’ve been using broccoli stems for years, ever since I saw Jacques Pepin (on tv) mention that all you have to do is peel the stems and you have a lot of good broccoli flesh inside. Anyway, after I heard about making broccoli marrow I googled “broccoli marrow” and found a few recipes online.
It’s a pretty simple process. Trim a sliver off of the very bottom of the broccoli stalk, and trim just underneath the florets at the top end. (Obviously I did not waste the florets; I cut them into chunks and roasted them in the oven with olive oil, salt & pepper, and lemon.) Boil the whole stems in salted water for about 20 minutes. While they’re boiling, make the garnish. I’ve seen enough bone marrow eaten on television that I know the most common toppings. I made a mix of lemon zest, capers, chopped parsley, sea salt, and olive oil, then let it sit together while the stems finished boiling.
After 20 minutes, the stems should be soft enough to cut easily. I sliced them lengthwise and topped them with the lemon-parsley mix. I started out using a spoon to scoop the innards out from the skin of the broccoli stem, but eventually I just picked them up with my hands and used my teeth. I always knew that broccoli and lemon made great combo, but there’s something special about the freshness of the zest and the parsley with the cooked stem that together makes it great. And so now when I pick out broccoli I look for the ones with the longest stems. In my refrigerator right now I have four broccoli stems waiting to be cooked. I am a changed man.
I have a few ideas for other Vegetarian Offal columns, but if you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments below!