As you might remember, it’s been two weeks since our last produce infusion through the CSA. This is generally where we get all our vegetable produce, so it’s a bit odd for us to wander down the produce aisle at the store trying to decide what to buy. Partly, it’s because of the way we cook now — often our vegetable dishes are determined by what we have on hand, and we modify recipes to match what we picked up at the CSA — and partly because we really like getting freshly-picked local vegetables that haven’t sat around in a warehouse waiting to be put on shelves.
In scanning through this week’s advertisements from the store, we spied a few vegetables that were actually grown here in Arizona — we don’t know where exactly, but if we had to guess, we’d pick near Yuma. These are the vegetables for us. Local, so they should be fresher and tastier, and we’ll have to say they looked great. Nice crisp romaine lettuce, glossy green leaf lettuce, and bright green broccoli. Once home, we immediately set out to make a Caesar salad with some romaine. It was wonderful. That night, we wanted broccoli, but not just steamed, so we came up with this, instead.
Obviously, this recipe is for fresh broccoli, so don’t consider using frozen. Balsamic vinegar reduction is pretty easy to make. It takes time, but almost no effort, and it adds a nice sweet, tangy flavor. We had some on hand from the last time we made some, so it was a no brainer to use it. If you don’t have any, you might consider using some sort of nut/seed oil to add flavor. Think walnut oil or sesame seed oil (neither of which we ever have). Finally, the sesame seeds are for a bit of crunch and visual interest. It’ll work just as well using only white sesame seeds, but the black ones look nice.
Procedure in detail:
Blanch and shock. Once you’ve chopped the broccoli and peeled the stems — you don’t want tough stems, so do peel them, saving the peels for a vegetable stock — you need to pre-cook the broccoli. We use the blanch- and-shock technique so the broccoli stays a nice, bright green. Bring 3 to 4 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the broccoli and boil until just tender, about 3 minutes. Immediately drain and shock by pouring cold water over the broccoli to stop the cooking. Drain completely.
Heat oil. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (cast-iron is perfect), heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Not so hot that the oil smokes, but nearly that hot.
Add broccoli. Add the broccoli in a single layer, or as close to a single layer as possible, and let it sear on one side. You’ll be tempted to stir, but resist this temptation and let the broccoli it a little browned in spots. After about 3 minutes, stir the broccoli to turn it, and let another part of the broccoli stems sear for about 3 minutes more.
Plate. Place the broccoli on warmed plates (we find broccoli cools quite rapidly), drizzle with a bit of balsamic reduction, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
This is a good way to eat what’s often thought of as a boring vegetable. The sesame seeds add a nice crunch, and the balsamic reduction adds an interesting tang. The searing didn’t add as much to the flavor as we’d hoped, so we might just skip that part next time (or perhaps the blanching part), so the broccoli is a bit firmer when served. Since this is such an easy way to serve broccoli in a new style, it gets four stars.