My sister, Mary Pat, is a great cook and an even better baker. Sweets are her thing but as the mother of three active boys, dinner always comes first — chronologically speaking!
One recent night, I had dinner at her house. When I asked if there was anything that I could do to help, she replied that it was all done. When I arrived, the house smelled divine as the Chicken Marbella was already in the oven.
We enjoyed a glass of wine as she cleaned and trimmed some broccoli, apologizing for making it because it is well known in my family that I am not a fan of broccoli, but everyone else loves it. I answered that it was OK, it would give me even more room for her raspberry-topped Tres Leche Cake that was resting in the refrigerator. When I think about eating a wellbalanced meal, I have long wanted to like broccoli, but spinach always trumped broccoli_ at least up until now.
As we sat down, Mary Pat brought the steaming broccoli dish to the table. It actually looked promising. Bright green florets with a dusting of Parmesan cheese and the rich smell of roasted garlic. I had to try it. It was really good. I ate every piece and had a second helping. And, the next morning, I was still thinking about the broccoli.
My sister adapted the recipe from a popular pasta that her Italian friend Roberto Broglia, owner of the legendary but now closed restaurant Pasta Mia in Washington D.C., made.
Mary Pat remembered that he blanched the broccoli florets, tossed them with a generous amount of garlic olive oil and caramelized garlic cloves. He added the garlicky vegetable to al dente pasta and finished it with lots of real Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of red-pepper flakes.
As my sister started cooking for her family, she looked for new ways to make broccoli that was both healthy and delicious. She remembered the broccoli pasta and started making it sans pasta, and the rest is history. Now, I have broccoli on my home rotation. Will wonders never cease?
MY SISTER’S BROCCOLI
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1 head of broccoli
1/2 cup peeled garlic cloves
1/2-1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
Pinch of red-pepper flakes,
Trim the broccoli and cut off
the florets. I like to cut them in the
natural clumps that you can see,
but you can also slice the florets
down the middle of the “trunk”
and cut the florets in half or in
quarters if they are really large.
Place these in a bowl and run cold
water to wash over them to wash
away any dirt. Set aside.
Meanwhile, place the raw garlic
cloves and the oil in a small
saucepan with a lid and simmer
on low heat until the cloves are
caramelized and brown and the
oil is fragrant, about 15 minutes.
If the garlic isn’t golden enough,
increase the heat and tilt the pan
until all the garlic is submerged in
the oil. Season the oil with a pinch
of salt. Set aside, but keep warm.
If you make the oil and garlic in
advance, warm on the stovetop or
in the microwave before using to
season the hot blanched broccoli.
Bring a large pot of water to a
rapid boil. Add a teaspoon of salt
and stir. Add the broccoli florets
and cook until crisp-tender, 1 to
1-1/2 minutes. Remove the florets
to a clean serving bowl. Do not
plunge them in ice water because
you want them warm to absorb the
garlic and cheese.
Pour the oil and garlic cloves
over the broccoli. Toss the broccoli
and dust liberally with the grated
Parmesan cheese. If you like things
a little spicy, add a pinch of red
pepper flakes. Serve immediately.
It is best eaten warm or at room
Nutrition information per serving: 156 calories; 112 calories from
fat; 12 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans
fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 411 mg
sodium; 5 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber;
1 g sugar; 5 g protein.
Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue
and Southern foods expert. She is
the chef and pit master at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and
the author of three books, including
“Taming the Flame.”