Sauteed Broccoli with Cumin and Mustard Seeds


This recipe was born out of revenge.  When I visit my parents’ house, I become the de-facto short order breakfast cook for my father.  As he’s walking out the door to grab the newspaper, he’ll call out a breakfast order which usually includes how he wants his eggs to be cooked and a non-negotiable number of pieces of toast.  One morning, I tried to mix it up by making him basic oatmeal, sweetened with sliced bananas.  This was a mistake.  Like many men of a certain age, he’ll refuse to try anything that screams “health food,” but I thought I could win him over with my charm as the youngest daughter in our family.  This was my second mistake.  After one bite, he ran to the trash, spit out the oatmeal, then looked to the heavens and exclaimed, “THIS IS FOOD FOR ANIMALS!”

Little bit of a drama queen, that one.  However, let the record state: I make damn good oatmeal.  This was war.

Now, I always sneak a veggie or two into his breakfast, whether its spinach in a frittata or sliced tomato on the side.  But fuming over this tantrum, I decided to go extreme: that man was getting a plate full of steamed broccoli for breakfast.  I quickly pan-steamed broccoli florets and, feeling benevolent, gave them a quick saute in oil with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and plenty of salt.  I still wanted to win him over to the green side.  The result was perfectly tender broccoli with Indian flavors crusted on top and none of that cabbagey flavor that broccoli-haters crinkle their noses at.  Not only did he gobble it up, but he requested more.

I prefer to keep whole spices on hand since they last longer and have more flavor.  But if you only have ground cumin, you can definitely substitute that for the cumin seeds.  Just add it to the oil and then immediately add the broccoli.  Unlike whole spices that take a minute bloom and give flavor to hot oil, ground spices will generally just burn if left in a pan alone to sizzle with oil.

This dish takes 3 minutes to make, and it’s still my favorite way to eat broccoli.  Love  you, Dad!

Sauteed Broccoli with Cumin and Mustard Seeds
Serves 2

1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Take a large saute pan with a lid and fill it with a half-inch of water.  Generously salt like water and then bring to a boil. Add the broccoli florets in an even layer and then cover.  Let steam for about 30 seconds or until bright green.  Remove the florets from the water and let drain in a colander or on a kitchen towel.  Drain the water and wipe out the saute pan.  If you have a steamer basket, you can use that to steam the broccoli, if you prefer.

2. In the same saute pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and let it heat up.  You’ll see a slight shimmer across the surface of the oil.  Then add the mustard seeds and the cumin seeds.  Once they heat up, the mustard seeds will start to sizzle and pop.  As soon as they start to do this, add the red pepper flake and the drained broccoli florets.  Sprinkle the salt evenly over the whole pan, adding more to taste if necessary.  Saute for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.

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9 responses to “Sauteed Broccoli with Cumin and Mustard Seeds

  1. On the plus side…”This is food for animals!” has now become a catchphrase at our house.

  2. This sounds so good! … and I totally believe that “this is food for animals!” is a catchphrase at your house haha!

  3. I know! Anyone who has ever met my dad or our family will surely not be surprised by any part of this story. Thanks Molly and Yasmin!

  4. Wow! This recipe looks amazing! As a vegetarian, I’m always looking for quick and easy ways to eat as many vegetables as possible in as little time as possible :) This is perfect for that!

    Any suggestions on what else I could eat with the broccoli? What would go great with this dish? Bonus points for it taking three minutes or less ;)

    • Thanks Jamie! Sauteing with spices and oil is a super fast way to add a lot of flavor to veggies. To make this a complete meal, take some inspiration from my dad and try it breakfast-style with a fried or poached egg. If you keep the yolk runny, you’ll have a gooey sauce for whole plate. Or, add half a can of chickpeas to the saute pan when you add the broccoli. Chickpeas pair nicely with Indian spices like cumin and mustard seed, so the combination is natural; just add a pinch extra of each of the spices and the salt. You could even round out the meal with a side of brown basmati rice or crusty whole-grain bread. Yum.

      Three minute challenge: MET. What’s next?

  5. I BURST OUT LAUGHING imagining your dad shout “this food is for animals!” Such a hilarious story and I can’t wait to try and make this in my tiny New York apartment.

  6. I would have been livid. Seriously, the dramatics of men that age. He would have been given some very brief cooking lessons and on his own from there. He should consider himself lucky to have such a patient daughter.
    This broccoli looks like a great side dish to go with an Indian dinner however. I will have to give it a try.

    • Thanks Nicole! It was pretty shocking at the time but quickly became hilarious. The broccoli is a great side to an Indian meal. I served it for a staff meal at a restaurant where I was working alongside tandoori chicken and basmati rice. Definitely a crowd pleaser. Let me know how it goes!

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