soft on broccoli and cauliflower by cooking them a
little longer for a surprising difference in flavor.
Here, pasta with broccoli, olives and pistachios.
who can turn on an oven knows the difference between
broccoli and cauliflower, right? One is green and shaped
like a tree and the other is white and looks more like a
brain. Well, it turns out itís a little trickier than
that. In fact, these two heady members of the brassica
family are a lot more closely related than might be
there are many members of the family that fall in between.
There are even white broccolis, oddly enough. Perhaps the
most recognizable example is the gorgeous romanesco
broccoli, which looks like an experiment in fractal geometry
that can fit on your dinner plate. Or, should I say,
romanesco cauliflower because, despite the name itís
commonly given, itís actually closer to that than
broccoli, even if it is a pale shade of green.
that tricky bit of food geekery, another thing broccoli and
cauliflower share in common is how well they respond to
being cooked until they are fairly soft. This will come as a
shock to those who still cling to the old
"tender-crisp" style of vegetable cookery. But you
really should give it a try.
took a while for me to be convinced as well. But after
repeatedly being served versions of broccoli with pasta in
which the vegetable, though still vivid green, had been
cooked to almost a smearing texture, I had to admit that the
flavor was better than the way I had been preparing it,
where the florets were barely fork-tender.
to be clear: Iím not talking about cooking these the way
your grandma might have done. You donít need to boil them
into stinking sulfurous submission to get this effect. Try
adding just another minute or two to the cooking time and I
think youíll be surprised by the difference.
Sicilian broccoli pasta recipe from Oretta Zanini de Vitaís
and Maureen B. Fantís quite wonderful new book "Pasta
the Italian Way: Sauces & Shapes," the broccoli is
cooked to the point that you can break it up with a spatula
ó first blanched and then sauteed in olive oil with
pistachios, anchovies and chopped olives. Cut the cooking
short and the broccoli is wild and a bit bitter. Give it the
full run and youíll be surprised at how sweet and mellow
had the same experience with cauliflower. Cook it until itís
barely tender and itís an "American Idol" type
of vegetable, kind of sweet, a little bland and ultimately
forgettable. Push it a little bit; cook it until itís just
soft enough to smash between your fingers, and itís a
completely different thing, deep and complex with a flavor
thatís slightly mustard-y and even has a whiff of truffle
to it (or is that my imagination?).
is the way you cook those suddenly trendy cauliflower steaks
(where did they come from, anyway?). Saute them long enough
to get the caramelization started and then finish them in
the oven until they are golden brown and can be pierced
easily with a fork. Be careful, theyíre fragile. You can
get much the same flavor without nearly the effort (but not
nearly as pretty either) by separating the cauliflower into
florets, tossing them with olive oil and simply roasting
them until theyíre tender.
a smear of romesco sauce works very well either way. The
recipe I have used for years is loosely adapted from
Patience Grayís "Honey From a Weed," though I
like both hazelnuts and almonds and she prefers almonds
feel free to use your own recipe. There are almost as many
variations for romesco as there are broccoli and
WITH BROCCOLI, OLIVES AND PISTACHIOS
minutes. Serves 6
anchovy fillets, drained and blotted dry if oil-packed,
rinsed and cleaned if salt-packed
tablespoons capers, preferably salt-packed, rinsed and
pitted black olives, preferably Gaeta, taggiasche or
kalamata (3 ounces)
cup shelled unsalted pistachios (11/2 ounces)
tablespoons very fruity extra virgin olive oil
small piece dried chile, about an inch long
pound pasta, preferably penne, orecchiette or rigatoni
rounded tablespoons grated pecorino Romano cheese
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
Trim the broccoli: Remove the florets and peel and dice the
stems, keeping them separate. You should have about 5 cups
Chop coarsely together by hand the garlic, anchovy fillets,
capers, olives and pistachios.
Heat the oil gently in a skillet large enough to hold the
pasta later. Add the chile and discard when it begins to
color. Add the garlic mixture to the pan and cook gently in
the oil until it just begins to turn gold, about 2 minutes.
When the water is boiling rapidly, add the broccoli stems
and cook for 2 minutes. Add the florets and continue cooking
until they are bright green and tender, but still slightly
crisp and not mushy, 4 to 5 minutes.
Lift the cooked broccoli out of the pot with a slotted spoon
or spider strainer right into the skillet, leaving the water
boiling in the pot. Stir the broccoli and garlic mixture
together, breaking up any large florets with the spoon; the
broccoli pieces should be small enough to coat the pasta.
Taste the broccoli mixture and add more salt if necessary
(with anchovies, olives and capers, you will probably not
need any), and let the flavors blend for a couple minutes
over low heat.
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook,
stirring occasionally, until it is al dente, generally 8 to
When the pasta is done, lift it out of the water and
transfer it, rather wet, to the skillet. Mix well over low
heat for about 30 seconds, sprinkle with the cheese and mix
again. Transfer to a warm serving dish or serve directly
from the skillet. Serve immediately.
fat 4 grams
from "Pasta the Italian Way: Sauces & Shapes"
by Oretta Zanini de Vita and Maureen B. Fant.
STEAKS WITH ROMESCO SAUCE
hour, 10 minutes. Serves 4
ounce hazelnuts (26 to 28 nuts)
ounce slivered almonds (ľ cup)
large tomato, cut in half, seeds removed
Mexico or ancho chile, stem and seeds removed
tablespoons olive oil, divided
ounce sandwich bread (about 1 slice)
teaspoon pimenton de la vera
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a jellyroll pan with
aluminum foil. Bake the hazelnuts until they are fragrant,
about 10 minutes. Remove to a kitchen towel and rub them in
the towel to remove as much of the papery peel as you can.
the almonds and the tomato to the pan and return it to the
oven. Remove the almonds when they are fragrant, about 5
minutes, and continue roasting the tomato, turning after
another 5 minutes, until it is beginning to char and soften,
20 to 25 minutes in all. Leave the oven on if cooking the
cauliflower steaks immediately.
the meantime, cover the chile with boiling water and set
aside to soften. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium
skillet. Add the bread and fry until lightly golden on both
sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat and
transfer the bread, leaving the oil in the pan, to a food
processor. Discard the oil.
the garlic, hazelnuts, almonds, tomato, chile, pimenton and
three-fourths teaspoon salt to the food processor and pulse
until finely ground. Add three-fourths teaspoon red wine
vinegar and with the processor running, pour in the
remaining tablespoon olive oil in a stream to make a thick,
chunky cream. Thin the sauce, if desired, with water,
pulsing in a little at a time. Season to taste with more
salt and vinegar if necessary.
Romesco is served at room temperature. This recipe makes
about 1 cup sauce, more than is required for the dish. Store
the remainder tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to
(2-pound) head cauliflower
whole clove garlic, peeled
Heat the oven to 400 degrees and line a jellyroll pan with
aluminum foil. If you have just made the romesco sauce, you
can use the same pan.
Trim away the leaves of the cauliflower and enough of the
base to allow it to sit flat on the cutting board. Leave as
much of the core as you can, as this is what will hold the
cauliflower together during cooking.
Using a very sharp knife, cut the cauliflower into half-inch
vertical slabs, working from the center out for the largest
steaks. You should have four steaks; save any remaining
cauliflower for another use.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat
and add the whole, peeled garlic clove. Cook the garlic
until it is light brown and blistered and then discard the
Cook the cauliflower steaks two at a time, frying on each
side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. When
the underside begins to brown, sprinkle the top with salt
and flip the steaks over. Be very careful turning as the
cauliflower is delicate and will want to break apart; using
2 spatulas is a good idea. When the second side is browned,
sprinkle with a little more salt and transfer them to the
When all the steaks are browned, roast in the oven until
they are quite tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Spoon a couple tablespoons of romesco on the serving plate
where the stem of the cauliflower will be. Place the
cauliflower, browned side up, on the plate over the sauce
and serve immediately, passing the remaining sauce at the
fat 3 grams
The romesco sauce is loosely adapted from "Honey From a
Weed" by Patience Gray.