Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Marinated broccoli stems and I love it

Gram O'Brien and me in the kitchen in St. Louis, circa 1972

Years ago, before the great sadness, the O'Brien side of my family would gather in St. Louis at my grandparents' house for Thanksgiving. The stories are many and far away, like the time I got stuck in a tree or the horrific drive from Ohio to Missouri in a Pinto during a blinding snow storm or the steaming bowls of chili and buttery garlic bread that inevitably awaited us on the other side of the Gateway Arch on Wednesday night. But this post isn't about any of that.

It's about broccoli stems and Gram O'Brien and me.

Gram O'Brien
I was seven or eight, perched on a stool watching Gram O'Brien putter around the kitchen. She was peeling broccoli stems.

"That's the secret," she said, peering at me from over her glasses. "And then you have to marinate them."

She took out a bottle of Wish-Bone Italian salad dressing and poured off most of the oil.

"I don't like that part," she said and pointed to the vinegar portion of the concoction. "This is where the flavor is." Then she doused the peeled cubes and discs with the hacked dressing. "Now you have to wait." I was completely transfixed by all of it.

Humble hostess as budding cook
When the marinated broccoli came out of the refrigerator much later that day, it was one of the most delicious things I ever ate--crunchy and chilled and full of that mouth watering flavor.

I suppose you could marinate the cubes in just about anything. I made them over the weekend, using my regular salad dressing (Good Seasons You make it fresh! Garlic and Herb--do not judge).

I hadn't made this simple dish I love so much for the longest time. I'd nearly forgotten about it. I usually just toss the peeled bits in to steam with the lush florets, but the florets were all I needed for Saturday's fondue party. I cleaned those and put them aside, and there were those stems, begging a use. I suppose that's when Gram's ghost tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, why don't you marinate them?

Man, they were good Sunday morning with the leftovers from the fondue dinner.

Thanks, Gram.

* * *


Anonymous said...


Shredded for slaw.


Kristian said...

I JUST ate this today. I bought some broccoli with huge stems and decided to peel and chop them finely like cole slaw. I mixed in thinly sliced cucumber and then poured in some rice vinegar.


I'm still happy about this coincidence :-)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

So I'm trying to figure out what that black object on the chopping block in the foreground is. j shape-upside down. It looks for all the world like a snorkle?


Erin O'Brien said...

Wow, a broccoli love post. Who knew?

As for the snorkel, RJ, yup, that's what it looks like to me. Maybe one of the clan was going to dive the great Mississippi later.

Anonymous said...

Diving for the little known Marine Broccoli. I was thinking "Damn...I just figured out non-stick cookware now I gotta get a snorkel?"


dean said...

I am going to try this - I generally don't like broccoli stems. I will marinate in homemade vinaigrette - garlic oil, shallot, white wine vinegar, basil, dijon.

Bill said...

To me, Erin, it's not a broccoli post. It's a touching Thanksgiving post. The 8 year old EOB reminds me of my own 8 year old granddaughter who loves being in the kitchen when something is being made, mixing bowl cradled in her left arm, wooden spoon in her right hand, serious look on her face. Happy Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...


The kindly lady, the eager kid helping, and the mysterious black object sure looked familiar to me. Check out the back cover of Zeppelin's 'Presence' LP.


Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks, Bill. I hope you and yours had a grand holiday and that you shared it with all the tots in your clan.

As for Gram and music, Led Zeppelin? Not so much. One of her favorite song was the Baby Elephant Walk.

Anonymous said...

@MR-Now I've got to learn about the mysterious black object on the album cover. It's a disease.


Anonymous said...

@ HEY RJ-Google 'Hipgnosis/George Hardie.'

You may already seen their work. You may very well have some of it in your house: Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, ELO, Audience, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Wings, Yes, and dozens if not hundreds more.