Your mother always told you to eat your broccoli, but new research shows she should also have told you how it should be cooked. A January 2011 study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, published in Nutrition and Cancer, suggests that overcooking broccoli doesn’t just make it mushy and gray, it also zaps its potential cancer-preventing properties.
Broccoli contains myrosinase, the key enzyme in the formation of sulforaphane, a sulfur-containing compound that studies suggest decreases both inflammation and carcinogenesis. But “the enzyme is heat-sensitive,” says Elizabeth Jeffery, the nutritionist whose lab conducted the study, “so if you cook it extensively for any period of time, you’re going to destroy it.”
Lightly steaming broccoli for just two to four minutes—until it’s tough-tender—protects the enzyme. Moreover, a recent preliminary pilot study suggests that eating broccoli with other myrosinase-rich foods, like broccoli sprouts, mustard, radishes or wasabi, may nearly double sulforaphane absorption in the body.
The trick is making the broccoli tasty. “The science serves little purpose unless you’re going to put it in your mouth,” says nutrition researcher and practitioner Wendy Bazilian, who runs a health and wellness clinic in San Diego. So we asked Dean Rucker, a chef and author of Golden Door Cooks at Home, to create a recipe that delivers a sulforaphane double punch. Try the recipe to experience the delicious results.
Broccoli, Soba & Shiitake Mushrooms With Wasabi-Mustard Vinaigrette and Toasted Sesame
This tasty recipe delivers a sulforaphane double punch.
Makes six servings, 1¼ cups each
- 4 cups tightly packed broccoli florets
- 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 8 ounces soba noodles (or whole wheat spaghetti)
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
- 1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon wasabi paste
- Juice of half a small lime
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon peanut oil
Cook the noodles in boiling water per package instructions. When cooked, place in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking and chill.
Using a steam basket, steam the broccoli over a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place in ice water with the noodles to chill. (If you do not have a steamer basket, place broccoli in boiling water for 45 seconds and then plunge into ice water.)
When the noodles and broccoli are well-chilled, drain well and place in a mixing bowl.
In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil over medium heat, add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and lightly crisp (2 cups raw mushrooms will become Â¾ cup cooked mushrooms).
Add the mushrooms to the broccoli and noodles, along with the toasted sesame seeds.
For the vinaigrette, place everything except the peanut oil in a small mixing bowl and whisk together well. Slowly drizzle in the peanut oil while whisking until all of the oil is incorporated. Toss vinaigrette with broccoli, soba and shiitake mixture and serve.
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