I buy broccoli every week. Tradewinds, our wonderful Blue Hill Hannaford-affiliated market, sells broccoli crowns, which are nice because you’re paying for less stem and more green top.

I rarely have anything specific in mind for the broccoli, but it’s such a versatile vegetable that I know I’ll use it either steamed or roasted as a side dish. Or, because its beautiful color and assertive flavor allow it to stand up for itself, I’ll use it as part of a main course such as penne with chicken and broccoli or a potato, cheese and broccoli soup.

Oh, and here’s another use: briefly blanch broccoli florets in boiling salted water, drain in a colander, refresh in a bowl half-full of ice cubes and water to stop cooking and set color, and drain well on paper towels. Serve as an hors d’oeuvre with a dip made with about half a cup mayonnaise (or part mayo, part plain yogurt) into which you’ve stirred 2 to 3 teaspoons of good quality curry powder.

PENNE WITH CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI

The genesis of this really delicious dish is a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Boston’s North End. Serves four.

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus additional to taste

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon

1 pound dried penne or other similarly shaped pasta

5 cups (about 1 1/4 pounds) broccoli florets

1 tablespoon butter

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off the excess. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. Cook chicken over medium heat until golden brown on both sides and no longer pink in the center, about 8 minutes. Remove from skillet, leaving drippings in the pan, and slice chicken crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide slices.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta for 8 minutes. Add broccoli florets and cook for another 3 minutes or until pasta is al dente and broccoli is just tender. Scoop out 1 cup of cooking water and reserve. Drain pasta and broccoli into a colander and return to warm pot.

Add remaining tablespoon of oil and the butter to skillet. Add garlic and oregano and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add reserved pasta cooking water and bring to a simmer.

Pour sauce and sliced chicken over hot pasta and toss; add grated cheese and toss again. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

AROOSTOOK POTATO, CHEESE AND BROCCOLI SOUP

The main ingredients of this delectable soup are “all county,” because, after potatoes, broccoli is Aroostook County’s second-largest cash crop. Serves four.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup chopped onions

1 teaspoon dry mustard

3 cups chicken broth

4 cups diced peeled potatoes

5 cups broccoli florets, coarsely chopped

2 cups half-and-half or light cream

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large heavy saucepan or soup pot, melt the butter. Add onions and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in mustard and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove about a cup of the potatoes to a plate, mash well with a fork and return to the pot. (This will thicken the soup.)

Add broccoli and half-and-half and simmer gently (do not boil vigorously) until broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add cheese and nutmeg, and stir until cheese melts.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.

 

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Dishing Up Maine” (Storey Publishing 2006) and “The New England Clam Shack Cookbook” (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.