An abbreviated list of what I feel grateful for on a daily basis: I married a guy who is a Yankees fan even though he grew up in Virginia; I live five miles away from a restaurant that is a destination for diners around the world; and, most relevant for today’s purposes: My children like broccoli. And by “like” I actually mean “love.” Though at one time in their lives they’d only deign to put a floret in their mouth if it was drenched in ketchup, nowadays, they routinely request that “crispy glazey” recipe to accompany whatever prosaic protein is on the plate; they are genuinely dejected when there’s more chicken than broccoli in the Chinese takeout; and then a few weeks ago, when presented them with my new favorite chopped salad, Abby turned to me and said, “Why do we never have enough broccoli?”
It’s a good question. And, now, one that might be filed under the category of Be Careful What You Wish For.
Because very soon after that, I was listening to Tom Colicchio on Marc Maron’s podcast when the conversation, naturally, turned to broccoli. Maron made some point about how when you know a basic technique, like, for instance preparing vegetables, you can apply that technique to anything. Colicchio agreed but countered with (paraphrasing) Well, it depends, sometimes I want my broccoli to be roasted but sometimes I need it to be fresh. Hmmmm. And then, a few days later, I was working at Bon Appetit and a recipe came across my desk called “Broccoli Bolognese” (I’ll link to it when it’s live) that called for the broccoli to be finely chopped, stems and all. It made me realize that I’ve been stuck in a roasted-broccoli rut, and maybe it was time to get back to fresh, and also everybody should have my problems. I bought two heads that weekend, then simmered and shocked them, and stored in the fridge for…whatever came up.
I didn’t have to wait very long. That night I chopped up half the batch and tossed with my fave vinaigrette, finely minced red onion, and Pecorino Romano, in the process realizing I could just use broccoli instead of lettuce for any of my favorite salads…
…then later in the week, on an atypically warm late September night, I grilled chicken, then going down this road, basically piled in any green I could scavenge up, including cucumbers, avocado, green beans, and my broccoli…
…A week-ish later, late on a Friday afternoon, we were loading up the car for a grandparents visit in Virginia, trying to figure out the dinner plan for our five-hour drive. Andy suggested grabbing pizza in town, which made me remember that we actually had thawed pizza dough in the fridge and, hmmm, is this enough mozzarella, wait, there’s cheddar and broccoli. Before I knew it I was baking a roadie pie, half margherita, and half broccoli, cheddar, onion. Guess which side went first?
Chopped Shocked Broccoli
Remove broccoli florets from head, preserving most of their stems. Boil in salted water for four minutes, then immediately plunge into ice water. Strain, remove ice cubes, and spread on paper towels to dry out. Once dry, chop into small pieces as shown in photos. Toss into salads and pastas, or add to pizzas and sandwiches.
Broccoli and Cheddar Pizza
Update: I’ve made this without shocking the broccoli first. Just make sure florets are cut into small pieces before baking the pizza.
4 tablespoons good-quality olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 16-ounce ball pizza dough (store-bought is fine) preferably sitting out at room temperature for about 15 minutes to warm up a bit and rise
6 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 large bunch broccoli (see note), chopped into small pieces (it’s fine if they have already been shocked, but it’s not necessary when you are blasting them in a 475-degree oven)
1/2 small onion, chopped
pinch red pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
chopped fresh chives, optional
Preheat the oven to 475°F. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, grease a 17 x 12-inch rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Drop pizza dough into the center of the baking sheet and, using your fingers, press out and flatten the dough so it spreads as close as possible to all four corners. (This takes time, but you want it to be thin so it cooks evenly and quickly.) Sprinkle with almost all of the cheddar, leaving a ½-inch border around the perimeter. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli, onion, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and remaining olive oil, then give it all another toss. Using your hands, add the broccoli mixture on top of the cheese in an even layer. Sprinkle remaining cheddar on top. Brush the exposed edge of the crust with a little oil. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust looks golden and cheese is bubbly. Remove the pizza to a cutting board to cool. Top with chives. Slice into eight rectangular pieces and serve. (Or wrap in foil if you’re hitting the road.)
Also: This one from the archives just cause, you know…ALDS champs.