I’ve already got a stack of emails from those of you who are staring at your quarantine pantry with dread! I’m so excited to dig into these — I love nothing more than a good cupboard-related quandary, and I am thrilled to have found a way to help people in what feels like a helpless time. (And, let’s be honest: finding a problem I can actually fucking solve is a big bonus.)
Housekeeping: I won’t be able to use a lot of photos in this series, because I’m not actually making the food, because I don’t live at your house. Sorry. If you don’t want to read the whole explanation for each step of the recipe, there’s a condensed version at the bottom of the post.
Now, let’s get started! Today’s Problem Ingredient is a fresh one, which makes it time-sensitive, so it goes to the front of the line:
My problem ingredient is broccoli. It's not usually a problem, but I've no idea how to make it appetizing in a time of comfort food. I also have goat cheese, Parmesan, extensive spice collection, cauliflower, oils, many vinegars, fully stocked baking pantry. Almost out of fresh garlic but have shallots. I have pine nuts and pecans and lemons, limes, and satsumas. Restriction: no mammalian meats or chicken eggs.
With many of us signing up for CSA boxes* for the first time, I have a feeling this is going to be a common dilemma. What do you do with the vegetables you’d normally cook as a Virtuous Side Dish, when all you want to eat is a really shitty burger? I don’t care how much you love fresh produce: when the thing you want is some garbage-food that’s designed in a lab to please your monkey-brain, broccoli feels like a thing to be endured.
But we can make this work. We can please that monkey-brain using broccoli, and it doesn’t have to be hard. Let’s figure it out together.
*(Produce Enthusiast Derail: a CSA box is a great way to get fresh produce for your household without risking the grocery store, while also supporting local farmers who may be missing a big chunk of the income they usually get from farmer’s markets and restaurant customers. Tip your CSA deliveryperson if you can.)
Here we go. Let’s make some motherfucking
Preheat your oven to 450°F. Do it now. Don’t forget.
Step one: break your broccoli down, then wash and dry it thoroughly.
We’re vegetable-washing enthusiasts now. You could try to wash the whole broccoli head before you break it down, but that’s hard and not very effective, because broccoli has a lot of nooks for grit and bugs to hide in. I prefer to use a good sharp knife to cut medium-sized florets off the head of the broccoli before I wash it.
To do a thorough wash: I like to put my produce into a salad spinner three-quarters filled with water. I hit it with a long spin cycle in the water, drain that water, repeat, then drain all the water and do another spin to dry. It’s also okay to use a little dishsoap on the first spin, if you rinse very, very thoroughly afterwards. If you don’t have a salad spinner, you can put your produce in a colander, then put that colander in a bowl of water and gently shake it to give your produce a thorough bath. Let the produce dry in the colander while you prep your other ingredients.
Step two: Chop up a shallot. We don’t need to use up your fresh garlic on this, and shallots are good as gold. You can break your shallot down into a small dice or a fine slice, up to you. I would personally go for a small dice, in hopes of coaxing the shallot into a wider distribution across the broccoli.
Step three: Flavors. Grab a big bowl and put a healthy amount of oil in there — like a half-cup, ish, for one whole head of broccoli. I know it seems like a lot. Don’t be a coward. Grease up that brassica. I’d use olive oil if you have a decent amount of it, but if you’re running low on that and want to conserve it, you can use coconut oil, sunflower oil, or safflower oil. You can throw in a little melted butter if you want, but not too much. Don’t substitute canola oil here, it will taste like a nightmare; and don’t use sesame oil or only butter, because they’ll smoke too much.
Add a lot of salt and cracked black pepper to the bowl. You could also add: paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, dried oregano, mustard powder, cayenne, ground cumin, mushroom powder, a few good glugs of Worcestershire sauce, a few good glugs of soy sauce, a splash of red wine vinegar. Use as many of those things as you have.
Step four: Toss to coat. I hate the phrase “toss to coat,” but here we are, these are tough times, we’re all doing things we didn’t think we’d have to do. Drop the shallots and thoroughly-dried broccoli into the big bowl with all the flavors. Use tongs to toss everything until you can’t see any more oil sitting in the bottom of the bowl, then toss a few more times to evenly distribute the seasonings. If things look dry, don’t worry: they’re not.
Step four: Go Time. Line a sheet pan with foil. Drop the contents of the bowl onto the sheet pan and shake it out into a fairly even layer. Put the pan into the oven and roast about 17 minutes, stirring the pan halfway through to make sure everything is browning evenly.
Step five: Embellishments. Pull out the pan. Drop some pine nuts on there. Squeeze half a lemon over the broccoli. Sprinkle parmesan over everything. Put the pan back in the oven for 5 minutes or so.
You fucking did it. That broccoli is going to taste like comfort food. It’ll be salty, fatty, roasty, and delicious. If you want to make it a little more decadent, stir some lemon and shallot into your goat cheese and use it as a condiment/dip/sauce, depending on what consistency you wind up with.
Just the recipe:
Break down a head of broccoli into bite-sized florets. Wash and dry thoroughly.
Chop up a shallot.
Combine .5 C oil with salt, pepper, and as much of the following as you have: paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, dried oregano, mustard powder, cayenne, ground cumin, mushroom powder, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, red wine vinegar.
Toss oil mixture with shallots and broccoli.
Roast on a foil-lined sheet pan at 450°F for 17 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Add pine nuts, a healthy squeeze of lemon, and parmesan.
Return to the oven for 5 more minutes.
To make it deluxe, mix shallots and lemon with goat cheese as a condiment.
Tell me in the comments if you try the recipe! What worked? What didn’t? What variations did you use? What would you do differently, if you came into more broccoli?
As promised at the top of the post: because I don’t have picture of food, here is a picture of Tinkerbell, who is very sad to have to wear the stop-chewing-your-paws cone.
If you have a pantry dilemma, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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