Broccoli was not treated well when I was growing up. My mother tended to cook it...and cook it...and cook it some more, just to be certain she had eliminated any visible signs of green. Back then everyone knew green vegetables were really meant to be gray. For a long time my father's running joke was that broccoli gave him the only thing he could agree on with George Bush...they both hated it.
Despite being surrounded by anti-broccoli bias, I've always had a soft spot for it. It's the perfect counterpoint to the beef in that takeout Chinese staple, Beef with Broccoli. It can enliven a baked potato eaten solo in front of the tv. You always know you're doing something good for yourself when you have a bite of broccoli.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across an absolutely wonderful recipe that made me crave broccoli like never before. It's relatively simple -- a room temp salad that mixes steamed or blanched broccoli with crumbled feta, fried almonds (a revelation by the way!), and (the key to the whole thing, I suspect) a divinely garlicky vinaigrette that gets some zing from a pinch of red pepper flakes. I can't get enough of this salad, people! It's perfect alone as a meal and also does well paired with a nice soup on a chilly night. I've made it weekly since discovering it. (That happens sometimes when I feel like I've made a real find. Just can't help myself.) There is something about the combination of flavors that makes it a welcome respite from all the rich, holiday foods that we're surrounded by this time of year.
I suppose the next step would be to try it on some true broccoli haters to see if it can convert them. I'll report back on that, but in the mean time if you are partial to this lovely green vegetable know that this treatment gives broccoli the love it deserves.
NOTES: the recipes call for blanching the broccoli for 3 minutes in boiling water, and then shocking the broccoli in ice bath for several minutes. Make sure you drain and dry the broccoli well. The first time I did not, and the residual water on the broccoli really diluted the dressing.
Broccoli Feta Salad
adapted from www.kalynskitchen.com and Fine Cooking
2-3 stalks of broccoli, florets and stems chopped into even-sized pieces
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup whole almonds
1 tablespoon olive oil -- for frying the almonds
For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
1. Start the vinaigrette: mix the vinegar, minced garlic, salt and hot pepper flakes together and let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Steam broccoli for 2-3 minutes (or, bring large pot of salted water to boil and add broccoli -- cook for 3 minutes -- drain).
3. Prepare ice bath in large bowl. When broccoli is done steaming or boiling -- drain and plunge into the ice water for 2-3 minutes. Remove and drain well on a clean kitchen towel.top the broccoli from
4. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a small saute pan over medium high heat and add almonds. Fry for several minutes -- until almonds have browned slightly and are starting to pop/crack. Remove almonds from oil and drain on a paper towel.
5. Combine cooked broccoli and crumbled feta.
6. Finish vinaigrette by whisking 4 tablespoons olive oil, one at a time, into the vinegar, salt, garlic, pepper flake mixture.
7. Pour vinaigrette over broccoli and feta -- toss to coat. Sprinkle with fried almonds and serve.