This broccoli, from a recipe by Alice Waters, is not very photogenic, but it is a delicious new staple in our kitchen. We have been eating it once a week for the past month at least. It is easy to make out of a few ingredients, when you don't want to think too hard or do anything too elaborate, and when the vegetable options are limited -- say, in January. The texture is soft and pillowy without descending to pap, and even after being cooked all that time, it still tastes vivid and green (even if it looks rather pale and feeble).
Fresh lemon is absolutely required; don't bother if you don't have one on hand.
We like it over a mixed grain pilaf, as you can see, and I've included a description of how I usually put these grains and nuts together, but it should be obvious that any number of things would do nicely in the same role: plain rice, noodles, couscous, kasha, farro, grilled bread... Not polenta, I think, unless you're recovering from dental surgery. It could also serve as a bed for something more substantial, like chicken or shrimp, if you eat those, or some kind of croquette.
Adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
1 1/2 lbs. (about one bunch) broccoli
1/4 c. olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
A fat pinch of dried red pepper flakes, or chile threads
A good sprinkling of salt
1 c. water
Juice and grated zest of one lemon
Grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (optional)
1. Cut/break the broccoli heads into small florets. Trim the ends off the stems, then peel the stems and cut into 1/4" slices.
2. Take a nice heavy pan with a lid and heat the oil over a medium flame. After a moment, add the broccoli, garlic, red pepper, and salt, and saute for a few minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil.
3. Turn the heat to very low and cover the pot. Cook for about half an hour or forty minutes. The broccoli should be very very tender, indeed falling apart. Uncover and stir vigorously to break everything up into a coarse puree, as pictured. If the puree seems too wet, turn up the heat for a couple of minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and zest and serve, with grated cheese if desired (we like it).
OUR GRAIN AND NUT PILAF
We use a rice cooker. I'm sure you could do it all in a pot and let the residual steam do the work at the end; I just very much like the way that quinoa comes out in the rice cooker, and it helps to make the whole dinner that much easier to put together when I'm tired and dull witted.
1. Make a batch of quinoa; I always buy equal amounts of red and white and mix them together in the pantry. I cook it on the "quick" setting of my rice cooker with two parts water to one part quinoa.
2. When it switches to "keep warm" I add salt, pepper, and as many as I have on hand of the following:
- leftover brown rice or other cooked grains (not in too great a quantity)
- a handful of nuts, like slivered almonds, pine nuts, chopped walnuts
- sesame seeds
- hemp seeds (what, you don't have a bag of these in the fridge?)
- those Thai pre-fried onions I am so fond of
- a scattering of dried or fresh herbs
3. Close the rice cooker and let the keep warm function bring everything up to nice fluffy temperature as you potter around cooking other things.