Stalk talk: experiments on getting more out of broccoli

Whenever I cook with broccoli, I throw the main stalk away. It used to irk me to have to throw out such a large part of the broccoli that I’d paid for by weight, but this practice soon became second nature. A big bland hunk of hard stalk — impossible to enjoy, as I’d learned in college with my 99c bags of frozen broccoli (which were 99% stalk).

But a bit of recent reading on food waste has made me rethink some of my habits in the kitchen. Cooking a veggie-based meal usually means a trash can full of discarded peels, stalks, tops and ends — not to mention all the packaging the vegetables came in — and it’s been beginning to bother me. So I decided yesterday, as a first step, to incorporate the stalk into my dinner. Sean, who doesn’t care for brocco-stalk either, was out for dinner, so I had room for experimentation.

My inspiration came from a Stonesoup* blog post on ways to “slow-carb” your meals (first time I’d seen the word used as a verb!). First on her list is “cauliflower rice”, but she doesn’t give much detail apart from recommending the use of a food processor, which I don’t have. Also, I had broccoli, not cauliflower, but I decided their stalks are similar enough that I could attempt a “broccoli rice”.

Method #1: Grating

I first peeled off the hard outer layer of the stalk, then grated it like I would a hunk of cheese.

Grating left me with a wet pile of shredded broccoli stalk. I wondered for a second how I would cook it: steam? Fry? Bake? Wait, I don’t have an oven. Steaming would keep it soggy. So I heated up 1tsp olive oil, grabbed a handful of shredded stalk, squeezed the water out of it, and pan-fried it with a sprinkle of salt.

It tasted like cabbage, in a good way, except that perhaps I’d kept too much of the end because there were a couple white, fibrous strands that had to be picked out…

Method #2: Mincing

I minced the thinner, greener stalks with my kitchen knife…

…and cooked it the same way as above.

The result was crunchy, savoury, and quite edible. Mincing was also less work than grating, so I think method #2 wins! Neither really looked or tasted like rice, but I’d be happy to eat these broccoli bits on their own, and at least from now on there’s no more discarding the stalk and grumbling about having paid for it.

I then stir-fried some shimeji mushrooms, leftover lentils, and the florets with some oyster sauce, scrambled two small eggs, and dished it over the broccoli bits. Super flavourful and satisfying — though the satiety likely came more from the lentils than from the broccoli.

A quick google search for “broccoli stalk” while writing this post suggests that broccoli stalk eaters are usually converts, and die-hard ones at that! Check out this list of ways to keep the stalk out of the trash. Sounds like it’s enjoyable raw as well — even less work!

Broccoli, shimeji mushrooms, and lentils on “broccoli rice”

I try to cook with mushrooms as much as I can when Sean’s not around, since he’s not a huge fan. My favourites from the supermarket are the shimeji (姬菇) and enoki (金针菇). I love pairing mushrooms with broccoli!

4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium-sized head of broccoli, stalk separated from florets
1 cup shimeji (or other) mushroom, cut into desired size
1/2 cup lentils, cooked (or canned) and drained — more if you’re hungry
Oyster sauce
Pure sesame oil
Black sesame seeds
Olive oil

1. Prepare the broccoli stalk as above (grated/minced and lightly fried and salted). Set aside.
2. Heat 2tsp olive oil in (non-stick) pan. Add garlic, broccoli florets, mushrooms (pat or squeeze dry before adding to pan), lentils, and fry for ~3 minutes. Add oyster sauce to taste and mix well.
3. Remove from heat when veggies are done (I like mine soft). Drizzle with sesame oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve with an egg and the broccoli bits (or rice for a fuller meal).

Serves 1 as a meal.

*One of my favourite cooking/food blogs. Stonesoup is all about healthy, “minimalist” home cooking with a wealth of refreshingly simple(-sounding) recipes. Although I’m not a huge fan of the blog’s organization/structure, I like her writing style, her drool-inducing photos, and the food habits she stands for: simple ingredients/methods, minimal kitchen tools, use of whole foods to create healthful, quick, mostly vegetarian dishes. Check it out.


1 Comment

Filed under eating in

One response to “Stalk talk: experiments on getting more out of broccoli

  1. Grated broccoli stalk? Weird but interesting. I normally cut off the tough outer wall and then boil it with the crowns. Cauliflower rice sounds interesting and I might try it out and let you know how that goes. I find it very difficult to wrap my head around the idea of slow-carb, though…

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