As far as first courses go, it's hard to beat any sort of Italian antipasti, and the MVP of any spread is artichoke hearts. The tender center of the artichoke flower can be served baked, slow-cooked, and even on top of pizza, and they also make an excellent salad when mixed with olive oil and some shaved hard cheese. Artichoke hearts aren't the cheapest ingredient, however, and they're also not a super-common pantry item. You can still make an artichoke-style salad without artichoke hearts, though. All you need are some broccoli stems.
Most of the time, artichoke hearts are only on the grocery list to make a specific recipe, and once you've made, for instance, a spinach artichoke dip, there's nothing left over. Broccoli stems, on the other hand, are a byproduct that often gets tossed in the trash. They have an almost identical texture to artichoke hearts and a similar mild flavor, and with a tiny bit of prep you can make a copycat artichoke salad with leftover broccoli stems. It's the perfect salad for when you want to stretch your budget and prevent a little food waste at the same time.
Prep Your Broccoli Stems
Buying fresh broccoli has always been a tradeoff. You can buy broccoli crowns -- the tops of the broccoli where all the florets are located -- or you can buy broccoli in bunches with the stems attached. The conventional wisdom is to buy broccoli crowns because most people throw the broccoli stems away, and you can use everything you buy. Crowns are more expensive than bunches, because the grocer pays more for broccoli that's been processed to remove the stems. If you buy broccoli in bunches you can save a little money on your grocery bill, as long as you plan to use the stems.
One of the easiest and tastiest ways to use broccoli stems is to make a batch of artichoke salad minus the artichokes. All you need to do is peel the tough outer skin of the stems away with a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler, the same way you might do with asparagus stems. Once you've got the tender inner part of the stem exposed, just slice it into rounds or chunks, and it's ready for making a salad.
Assemble Your Salad
Peeled, cut broccoli stems can be used interchangeably with any artichoke salad recipe. The easiest way to use them is to marinate them like any other antipasto-style vegetable. Simply soak them in lemon juice and olive oil for 10 to 15 minutes, and they're good to go.
For an antipasto-style artichoke salad -- where the broccoli will be the star of the show -- once you have the broccoli pieces marinated, all you really need to add is some shaved Parmesan or Romano cheese and some freshly ground pepper. Marinated broccoli stems are also a great addition to a chopped salad in place of artichokes, or you can pop them into a Mason jar salad when you're prepping food for the week.
Marinated broccoli stems will stay fresh for a few days in the fridge as long as you keep them covered, so you can make them a day in advance. Just know that the longer you marinate your broccoli, the softer it will become, so if you like crunchy salad, use your marinated stems sooner rather than later. They're so delicious that you'll probably want to eat all your marinated broccoli stems the first chance you get.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.