The garden is bursting at the seams with good health and productivity. As I wandered through the paths this morning, needing to leap over squash vines and playing hide-and-seek with my youngest in the corn stalks, the broccoli, its beautiful gray-green heads pearled with morning dew, struck me as most beautiful.

This vegetable is packed with healthy vitamins, minerals and fiber. The leaves are also flavorful, and react similar to kale when cooked. The part that we typically eat is actually the flower of the plant. When you grow it yourself, the first cut is the only one that looks like what you buy in the grocery store.

After that, all kinds of offshoots begin popping up, which is the broccoli plant desperately trying to make flowers that will eventually turn to seed. If you are diligent, you can keep the flowers at bay and your table flush with nutrition and taste.

If not, a simple snip and walk to the compost pile is the only remedy, as once a shoot begins to flower, bitterness overtakes all other flavors.

Note: Last column, an astute (and kind) reader wrote to ask, why on earth, at this time of year, would anyone need to use frozen corn in their salsa? Good point! I tested the recipe this winter and then retested once fresh corn was available, but didn’t make the change in the recipe. Thanks for noticing!

PAN SEARED BROCCOLI WITH LEMON

While steamed vegetables become a little mundane, I still like my vegetables to be fairly unadorned. Partly because the less fat added the better, and partly because when a vegetable is fresh, I like to know it is unadulterated and unfettered.

Recognizing that almost none of us cooks as our grandmothers – with the instinct to produce perfect baked goods every time with a little of this and a handful of that plus a pinch of salt – I typically indicate the amount of salt at 1/8 of a teaspoon.

However, the amount of salt in this recipe is too little to be measured with a tiny spoon. Better to take a small pinch at a time, which is how chefs salt their food consistently – with their hands. Begin to develop a sense of how much salt a dish needs. Begin with less. Taste. Add more as needed.

8 ounces broccoli, or 1 large head of broccoli

Pinch of salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

11/2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil

Juice from 1/2 lemon

Cut the head of broccoli into large florets so that the “branches and leaves” are about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide and the “trunk” is 2 to 3 inches long. Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil to the pan and then the broccoli. Salt and pepper.

Toss or stir to coat the broccoli with the oil and stir when one side of the broccoli begins to brown. Cover with a lid, and continue to stir fairly regularly. Remove from heat when the broccoli is still bright-green but the trunk is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat if you need to in order to prevent scorching.

Serves 4.

BROCCOLI AND BACON QUICHE

Serve with a garden salad, and you’ve got an easy weeknight dinner for your family.

2 cups chopped cooked broccoli

2 cups grated Emmenthaler or Swiss cheese

4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 pie crust

Preheat oven to 375. Roll the pie crust out to 1-inch larger all the way around than a 10-inch pie plate. Transfer to the pie plate and pinch the edges. Add the broccoli, cheese and bacon to the pie plate and gently mix with your hands. In a small bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and add to the pie plate. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the center is only the tiniest bit jiggly.

Serves 6.

BROCCOLI, BASIL AND CHICKEN ALFREDO

Cut the broccoli for this recipe into longish spears with the florets still attached. Not only are the florets edible, but 2 or 3 inches of the stem is as well. If you notice that the skin on the stems seems fibrous, you can use a peeler and remove the outer layer. The rest will be tender once steamed.

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces, about 1 pound

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch of white pepper

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

2 cups grated Romano

1/4 cup julienned basil

2 heads broccoli, cut into florets with long stems

1 pound fettuccini

Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds to one minute. Add the chicken, salt and pepper, and saute until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon and add cream and milk and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add cheese and basil. Stir gently, until the cheese is thoroughly melted. Return the chicken and any juice to the pan.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta to the water and stir well. Place the broccoli in a colander and let steam over the boiling water with a cover on for 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is still green but tender when pierced with a fork.

Add the broccoli to the skillet with the chicken, and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, transfer to a platter, and top with the chicken and broccoli.

Serves 4 to 6.

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea,” a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family’s windjammer. She can be reached at: [email protected]