with inspired vegetarian fare.
I recently came across a recipe for charred broccoli in the NY Times that included garnishes of aioli and panko bread crumbs, which all sounded really delicious, but it was charred bit that really intrigued me. What could be more simple and yet mostly overlooked when faced with cooking broccoli, deferring instead to the old tried and true standards. Charred, as opposed to roasted, grilled, or steamed seemed almost radical, yet logical, searing in the flavor and retaining the texture of raw broccoli in one quick flash in the pan. It was certainly worth a go at it!
The result was a game changer. The broccoli was crisp and the flavor deeply intensified to an almost grilled meat like tastiness and texture. Admittedly I was eating in near darkness to avoid an onslaught of tiny flying insects that instantly flock to any light source here in the tropics from time to time, but I kid you not, charred broccoli is every bit as good as any grilled steak I can remember. Serve it up with corn on the cob and crusty hot garlic bread and you and your dining compatriots will be amazed, and if not a reformed carnivores, at least wooed by a stellar meal sans meat.
Charred Broccoli: serves 2-4
- 1 large head of fresh green organic broccoli
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- grated goat’s milk feta or Parmigiano
Remove the woody part of stem from the broccoli and cut the broccoli head and remaining stem in half lengthwise. Then cut each half lengthwise, and once again cutting each quarter in half lengthwise, leaving you with 8 branches of broccoli florets.
Ideally, using an outdoor portable butane cooker, or a gas grill, is highly recommended as there is a lot of spattering and smoking while charring. If that is not an option, be sure to switch on your exhaust hood to high before you begin charring!
Place a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet over high heat and add the olive oil and garlic. Swirl the pan to distribute the oil evenly, infusing the oil with garlic flavor as the pan heats up. Remove all the garlic once it begins to color and discard.
Once the oil is nearly smoking hot add all the broccoli at once, cut side down, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Sear the broccoli about 1 minute until charred. Immediately flip the broccoli over and season once again with salt, freshly ground pepper, and a very light dusting of grated cheese and sear until charred; 30-60 seconds. Flip the broccoli over once again and add a light dusting of grated cheese. Remove from the pan immediately and transfer to serving platter, or individual serving plates, and serve pronto!