The buzz about Broccolini
Mar./Apr. 2011 California Country magazine
Steamed, sautéed or chopped, this vegetable is creating a buzz in kitchens all across the country.
People along California's Central Coast have the luxury of choosing from a wide variety of places at which to eat. But for many of those who enjoy an authentic Italian meal, there is only one place: Cantinetta Luca. Consistently named one of Carmel's best restaurants, this hip, casual eatery is a hit with customers as well as critics.
Situated close to the Salinas Valley, Executive Chef Jason Balestrieri enjoys ready access to a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. And he says highlighting them is one of his easiest tasks, especially when he's got all kinds of new ones hitting the plates, like his personal favorite: Broccolini.
"Broccolini can be steamed, it can be sautéed, it can be chopped, left whole. You can use stems for one preparation and the florets for another preparation," the chef said. "It's very versatile and very consistent."
Consistency is the name of the game at Mann Packing Co. in Salinas. The company was started in the 1930s by H.W. Mann, a young Stanford University graduate who came to Salinas looking for opportunity. He found it growing broccoli, of all things. Today, Mann Packing is the largest shipper of broccoli in the world, but always with an eye to the future and new products—including the company's most recognizable new invention: Broccolini.
"Broccolini is one of Mann's signature items," said Lorri Koster, vice president of marketing. "Our third-generation family farming business has been the exclusive supplier of Broccolini for 12 years."
Despite the success of Broccolini, she does acknowledge that in the beginning she wondered if America really needed another vegetable. As it turns out—we do! Chefs all across the country, including Rachael Ray, quickly embraced the versatility and tastiness of Broccolini. Today, the company farms 1,375 acres and harvests more than 8 million pounds of the bright green vegetable.
While it may seem like a piece of undersized broccoli, Broccolini is actually a natural hybrid between broccoli and gai lan (Chinese kale). Nor is it the same as other "baby broccolis" that are hitting the market. The taste is sweeter and more subtle than the other hybrids.
Broccolini is packed with vitamins, 100 percent edible and has a sweet, peppery taste that is creating a buzz in kitchens all across the country. It's all part of the inventiveness and creativity one California company has built its reputation on and that will—like Broccolini's fan base—continue to grow.
For more information about Mann's Packing, visit www.veggiesmadeeasy.com.
For more information about Cantinetta Luca, visit www.cantinettaluca.com.
Want to try Broccolini for yourself? Here are a few recipes.