I crave vegetables. Specifically vegetables of the leafy and green sort-kale, collards, chard, the greens from beets, broccoli raab. My motto when it comes to green leafy vegetables is the bitter the better. I like my greens to have bite and personality, which is probably why I’m not a huge fan of broccoli. Don’t get me wrong broccoli is tasty and serves a purpose. I mean what better way is there to get a kid to eat a funny looking green vegetable than to call it a dinosaur tree and then pour over gobbs of melty processed cheese? I can’t think of one.
As an adult my tastes in green vegetables changed drastically. The first leafy green I fell for was broccoli raab. Don’t let the name fool you it has nothing to do with broccoli. Broccoli raab is a more grown up tasting green. No amount of gooey cheese can mask its bitterness. Which is part of the reason it appeals to me. Soon after broccoli raab came more quick cooking greens: swiss chard, followed by the green leaves of beets and dandelions. Green leafy vegetables are perfect for a quick saute in oil and smothered with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes. Come to think of it, most leafy greens taste their best when sautéed in good olive oil infused with spices. I soon began to use this new cooking method with old favorites like collards and kale. Although kale is wildly popular now, when I was growing up it was always part of the Sunday meal mixed in with a pot of long braised collards. Giving kale and collards a brief blanch and then quickly sauteing them lets them keep their integrity making them the perfect foil for richer Sunday meals.
Recently I was introduced to broccolini or otherwise known as broccolette. Again nothing to do with broccoli. Broccolini has it’s own distinct taste. Not as bitter as broccoli raab and more complex than regular brocolli. What surprised me most about broccoli is how sweet the stalks are. Before cooking them I snapped off a piece of the stalk and bit into it. It was delightfully sweet and pleasant tasting. I could picture it raw in a lightly dressed pasta salad. For now I would be cooking it like I cook most of my greens and piling it atop crusty, chewy fried bread.
I admit when I first saw this combination of greens and bread I was a bit skeptical, I figured one would overpower the other or the chopped vegetable would end up as a pile on the plate even before it reached my mouth. But the lure of a green vegetable sautéed in oil pulled me in. This is the perfect combination of crusty bread with a soft interior, fried in olive oil, rubbed with garlic while still warm and then sprinkled with salty cheese. Top it off with the broccolini thats been enhanced from a hit of anchovies and fresh squeezed lemon juice. The quick cooking method makes this the perfect snack or starter before any meal and satifies my cravings everytime.
Adapted from The New York Times
Pecorino Fried Bread With Broccoli
Time 25 minutes
- 1/2 pound broccoli di ciccio, broccolette or regular broccoli
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 (1-inch thick) slices day-old pain au levain or rustic white bread
- 6 anchovies, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
- Juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- Salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
- 1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. If using regular broccoli, cut into 2-inch pieces. Trim broccoli di ciccio or broccolette but leave whole. Blanch broccoli until bright green and just tender, about 1 minute. Transfer to ice water to cool. Let drain and squeeze out extra moisture. Roughly chop broccoli into bite-size pieces.
- 2. Mince 3 garlic cloves and halve the remaining one.
- 3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high until hot but not smoking. Fry 2 pieces of bread until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Set bread aside. Repeat with 2 more tablespoons olive oil and remaining bread.
- 4. Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet. Add minced garlic, the anchovies and chile flakes, and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add broccoli and heat until warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice and zest and a pinch of salt, or to taste.
- 5. Rub fried bread with garlic clove halves and sprinkle with some of the cheese. Place broccoli on top of bread and garnish with more cheese.
Source: The New York Times