(well, unless you added bacon, then it might be even better)
Some people’s husbands are meat and potatoes guys. Some are foi gras and wine guys. Mine is a broccoli guy. Like, a really serious broccoli guy. He has wide and varied interests, but he likes broccoli so much that it was actually one of the first things I learned about him. We were at a potluck and he had brought several pounds of the stuff as his contribution. “Joel really likes broccoli,” a mutual friend announced, with this kind of sage air of understanding. It appears to have almost legendary status among his friends from college (along with the time he had a dinner party and served only steak and strawberries, which is, er, unique). So, when I prepared broccoli in this way and he busted out with, “oh my gosh! This is amazing! This is the best!” I took it seriously.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell because part of his job is to be ridiculously and over the top enthusiastic about anything I cook. But, this was total, uncalculated enthusiasm. An unequivocal endorsement. And it was so easy! I love that, when you find a way of preparing a food that’s barely harder than turning your oven on, but it comes out tasting like you should wrap it up with a sparkly bow and give it to your friends as a Christmas present. (Except that with some things, like broccoli, that would be really weird and perishable, and probably pretty soon you wouldn’t have any friends left, or at least all your friends would say, “oh I’m really not taking presents this year.” Although, actually, I don’t think I’d really mind receiving broccoli as a Christmas present. It would be better than scented candles.)
Anyway, this also happens to be a banner year for broccoli in Massachusetts. The eggplant and summer squash kind of limped, and the bell peppers threw in the towel early, but we’ve been getting some hefty loads of broccoli coming to us in our CSA share in the latter half of this summer. Dreamy.
This broccoli is a very slight variation on regular roasted broccoli, which I make all the time. Like I’ve mentioned far more times than anyone probably cares to hear, roasting does something amazing to vegetables. It lightly caramelizes the insides, and gives the outsides little crispy toasted spots of crackling golden flavor. It’s almost never a bad idea to roast your vegetables. But, in addition to my standard olive oil, salt, and pepper, I threw in a couple of cloves of garlic. Then, once I took the broccoli out of the oven, I decided to add a little bit of minced preserved lemon because, really, the stuff is amazing and adds a completely unique zesty, piquancy to pretty much anything. If you don’t have any preserved lemon, well first I really recommend getting some (or making your own – be aware it takes a week). But, if you can’t manage to come by any by the time you’re cooking broccoli, use a tsp. of lemon or orange zest and a Tbs. or so of juice as well.
The best broccoli (serves about 4, or 2 if you happen to be very enthusiastic broccoli eaters)
1 large head broccoli
about 3 Tablespoons olive oil
about ½ tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic
2-3 tsp. minced preserved lemon (or a heaping tsp. lemon/orange zest and a couple Tbs. juice)
Preheat your oven to 425F. Wash your broccoli and cut off all the little florets from the stem. Slice the top, less woody part of the stem into slices. Peel your garlic cloves and slice each clove into a few slivers. Toss the florets and stem slices and garlic slivers in a bowl with olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and some pepper and toss again. Spread it all out on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven, stirring occasionally until the broccoli is getting nice and browned on the outside, about 25-30 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl. Toss the broccoli with the preserved lemon and serve.