Every so often, a new friend will confess that they’ve been reading my blog and when I ask, “Did you make anything?” the response is often, “Well I work, so I barely have time to get dinner on the table.” I understand where they’re coming from, though I usually end the friendship at that point. To prevent that from happening again, I’d like to share with you now a dinner anyone can make right after work that is so winning and so wonderful, you’ll want to hug me once you learn it. I like it so much, it’s pretty much a staple now of my repertoire.
Tag Archives: broccoli
This post is a bit of a cheat because it’s really a combination of two posts that already exist on my blog: How To Cook Perfect Fish At Home and The Best Broccoli of Your Life. The only innovation is that I served these two things together on the same plate and instead of using cod, like I did in that Perfect Fish post, I used really good salmon (Scottish salmon, if you must know) and did away with the Parmesan on the broccoli because I don’t like cheese and fish together. Oh and one more thing…
Eating paste has a special allure, when you’re a kid. First off, there’s the smell, which is chemical and funky. Then there’s the texture, the main pleasure behind eating paste, a texture like white peanut butter, but thicker, barely spreadable with the little wooden stick you dab into the jar. I’m not sure that I ate a lot of paste as a kid (though I was definitely a kid of whom people probably said, “He eats a lot of paste”) but I do believe I’ve found the adult corollary: canned cream of mushroom soup.
You know that thing where you buy two big bunches of broccoli for dinner one night and then you only end up using one bunch so the other bunch sits in your refrigerator in a plastic bag for a week? And then, one week later, you look at it and kind of feel sorry for it and don’t want to throw it away but at the same time it’s kind of limper than it was one week earlier: less Jessica Rabbit, more Jessica Tandy? Here’s something you can do.
Here’s something for you to cook this weekend, something from the archives. It comes from The River Cafe Cookbook, a book I no longer own, but no matter. It’s an easy enough recipe, I have it memorized. So easy: I can squeeze it all into this paragraph. Boil a pot of water, add salt. In a large skillet, add cubed pancetta–about two big slices worth. Add a splash of olive oil, raise the heat and let the pancetta start to brown. When it’s getting closer to brown than not-brown, add broccoli florets–about two heads worth–to the salted water. Add 2 or 3 cloves of slivered garlic to the pancetta and some red pepper flakes. (Watch the garlic: don’t let it burn.) When the broccoli is just cooked, but still al dente (1 or 2 minutes) lift with a spider into the skillet with the pancetta and garlic. Now drop a 1 lb box of orecchiette into that same salted broccoli water; stir it all around so the pasta doesn’t stick to itself. Lower the heat on the broccoli and if the pan is too dry, add some pasta cooking water. Keep it on the lowest flame while the pasta cooks. When the pasta’s just al dente (9 minutes later) add with the spider to the skillet with the broccoli and pancetta (it’s ok if some pasta water gets in, it helps make the sauce). Toss all around until everything’s coated and the pasta’s totally cooked through and then, off the heat, add copious amounts of Parmesan cheese and one final drizzle of olive oil. Magnifico! There you have it: Orecchiette with Broccoli & Pancetta.
Remember that broccoli post I posted a few months ago? The Best Broccoli of Your Life? It kind of took the world–or, rather, the web–by storm. To prove it, do a Google search for “best broccoli recipe” and marvel at the #1 result. If Google says it’s the best broccoli recipe, then it has to be, doesn’t it? Just like if you Google “best food blogger,” my blog… what? WHAT? Get Google on the phone right now!
I think so many people liked that recipe because it resulted in broccoli with a texture and a flavor few of us were familiar with. Crispy, caramelized broccoli? Not that mushy, frozen stuff? Plus all that lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and Parmesan cheese; it was kind of hard not to love that broccoli. It’s the kind of recipe that’d be difficult to improve upon; that is, until you add shrimp.
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You know you’ve done something right with broccoli when the person you made it for describes it to someone else the next day as “better than biting into a steak.”
Those were Craig’s words and they were a marked change from the first words he uttered about the broccoli, before he bit in: “You made broccoli for dinner? Broccoli and sweet potatoes?”
Then he did bite in and his eyes lit up. “Oh my God,” he said. “This is the best broccoli I’ve ever had in my life.” Later he said: “If parents made this broccoli for their kids, kids wouldn’t hate broccoli. They’d beg for it.”
This is a recipe from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, a cookbook I’ve long dismissed as too complex, too fussy, too–well–not me. Flipping through it now, the recipes are long-winded, they go on for pages, and the pictures are too few and far between. And yet this is a cookbook that has something to say–I can’t deny that–and every now and then I pick it up and hope that I may stumble across something that will win me over. Tonight was such a night.
It’s a super simple Zuni recipe (“Pasta with Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower”), a recipe that spans only two pages, and yet now I will attempt to reduce it to just a few short paragraphs.
1. Take cauliflower and broccoli and slice it into 1/8th-inch slices (about as much as you think can fit in your saute pan). Heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil in the pan on medium heat and then add the cauliflower and broccoli, leaving behind the stray bits for later:
Cook until the cauliflower and broccoli are brown on the edges. Don’t move them around!!
2. Once browned, add salt (a light sprinkling) and more oil (this is why it’s not so healthy, I added a lot of oil) and then the rest of the cauliflower bits from the board. Then add 1 Tbs capers and toss around. Then let cook until the edges begin to brown again.
3. Drop 1 pound (or so) of penne or fussili (or any pasta, really) into a pot of boiling salted water. Try to time it so the pasta will be done when the sauce is done.
4. When the broccoli and cauliflower has shrunken by 1/3rd, reduce the heat, add more oil, and then add chopped anchovy (6 filets), chopped garlic (six cloves), 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, and 4 to 8 pinches red chili flakes. This is a highly unusual step–adding the garlic and flavorings AFTER the vegetables have cooked–but it makes the flavors way more pungent. Stir them around and cook for a few more minutes.
5. Taste! Is it tasty? Judy Rodgers says, “Every flavor should be clamoring for dominance.” (She also has you add olives and toasted bread crumbs, but I didn’t have any on hand).
6. When the pasta is done, toss it with the sauce and look:
You’ve made broccoli and cauliflower oily, unhealthy and terrifically delicious! It’s a great pasta dish. You can add cheese if you want, but I didn’t have any. And so, the Zuni Cafe cookbook gets a pat on the back tonight. Well done, Zuni. Well done.
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