It may not be on everyone's list of the world's sexiest vegetables, but broccoli is a cook's dependable friend. It's always in the market, almost always in good condition, and it's reliably inexpensive. It's also very versatile, taking well to being steamed, boiled, roasted, and sautéed. In addition to conventional broccoli, many stores now carry several broccoli relatives and look-alikes. Keep an eye out for broccoflower, a cross between cauliflower and broccoli, as well as Chinese broccoli (gai lan), a particularly flavorful, leafy variety with thick stems. The new thin-stemmed broccolini is a cross between regular and Chinese broccoli. You might even see purple broccoli, which produces lots of tender side shoots but resembles conventional broccoli in taste. Finally, broccoli raab is more closely related to turnips, but it has a somewhat broccoli-like appearance.
You can substitute broccolini.
When buying broccoli, look for deep, green color and nice, tight flower heads, which means that the broccoli is fresh. Many supermarkets sell broccoli crowns (just the top portion with the florets), but if you buy whole broccoli, you can use the tasty stems in stir-fries, soups, and more.
Cut the florets into the size you need, but don't cut through the buds—instead, use a small knife to cut lengthwise through the stem. This method lets the florets separate easily but keeps the buds intact. You'll get fewer "bud crumbs" (which can burn easily) in the pan, and the florets will retain their tree-like shape. The stems are just as tasty as the florets, as long as as you peel them before cooking (the outer layer tends to be tough and fibrous).
Store in the refrigerator for up to four days.