Food & Drink

Can you eat broccoli leaves? Yes, says expert

The Washington Post

Here are edited excerpts from a recent online chat with The Washington Post’s food staff and Michael Stebner, culinary director for Sweetgreen restaurants.

Q: The leaves on our broccoli plants are huge (and the primary heads are just about ready to harvest). I know the leaves are edible, but I imagine they are going to need some braising or other treatment to tenderize them. Suggestions?

A. Michael Stebner: That is correct; they are delicious braised. I also like to shred them up and toss them into salads. The stalks are very sweet, and the leaves are more veggie tasting; together, the stalks and leaves give tons of flavor.

Q: I know I shouldn’t store my spices above the stove. Does the same advice apply to a drawer next to the stove? Would the stove’s insulation on the sides protect the spices, or is just the proximity to the heat source enough to cause a problem?

A. Bonnie S. Benwick: The easiest way to tell is to check the temperature/warmth level of your nearby drawer while the oven is in use. You can keep salts in those places, but I’d relocate the other spices, for sure. Mine at home are in a drawer almost directly across from the stove, and that’s handy.

Q: I marinated some chicken breasts (poked all over with a fork) overnight with a citrus-herb marinade. After they were baked, I could hardly taste the marinade flavor in the meat. Are meat/marinade injectors better at giving more flavor to meat?

A. Becky Krystal: If you believe Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen, and I tend to, they’ll say that marinades really do not penetrate very much at all into meat.

Personally, I wouldn’t go to the trouble of injecting something into chicken breasts, and I’m not sure puncturing the meat all over is the way to go if you want to keep them neat and juicy.

You could definitely try brining the breasts for extra flavor and working with something you apply just to the surface of the chicken right before it hits the grill, and maybe even in a part-way-through baste. Basting part of the way through grilling might be the best way to go with something heavy in herbs, so they don’t burn.

You can also always go the dressing/dipping sauce route, as I don’t know that something citrusy will really hold up, flavorwise, on the grill.

Consider dried spices, too. I recently grilled some breasts that I coated with a mixture of cumin, garlic powder, cayenne and ground chipotle combined with oil and wowza, were they flavorful. Best ones I’ve probably ever grilled.

Q: I picked up a Chinese radish at a farmers market. I tasted some raw slices, and it’s a little harsh (and hot) for my taste. Any suggestions for cooking it?

A. Stebner: Try shredding it, or slicing it really thin, then rinse in cold water for 30 seconds, drain and rinse two more times. At this point it tastes great on its own, or splash it with brown rice vinegar and salt for a quick-pickle effect. This goes really well in Asian-inspired salads or as a great, healthful side dish.

Q: As much as I love fried chicken, I get it perhaps only twice a year. My supermarket deli makes wonderful fried chicken, and it’s easiest to grab the eight-piece all-dark package (four thighs, four drumsticks), which leaves leftovers. My question is how to reheat the leftover pieces so the meat stays moist and gets heated thoroughly, and yet the skin doesn’t lose that delicious crispiness.

We don’t have a convection oven (the internet’s preferred solution), just a conventional oven, microwave oven, and toaster oven. We also don’t want to eat the chicken cold or fry it a second time (other internet solutions). I don’t use the microwave for reheating because it makes the crust soggy; reheating at 350 degrees in the toaster oven seems to either dry the chicken meat out or not warm it all the way through. Any suggestions for me?

A. Berwick: I haven’t tried it, but I might wrap each piece in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet at 300 degrees; once the meat’s warmed through, unwrap and crank up the heat to 400 for five to seven minutes or until you can feel the skin crisping up. Report back if this works!


Q: I love the taste of cod, but I do not love fishy fish, like salmon. Do you have any recommendations for fish that are closer to cod than to salmon?

A. Stebner: Salmon has a higher oil content, which usually translates to a more “fishy” flavor. I would look for other white fish that are not as oily, like halibut, striped bass, rockfish.