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(An Affront to) Good Taste: Long-Cooked Broccoli with Buttermilk

Long-Cooked Broccoli with Buttermilk

As with anything, trends in the food world come and go. Some are short-lived (cake pops, anyone?), some a little more tenacious (sigh- cupcakes) and some become broader movements that are difficult to define until we’re past them. So, what movement are we in now? I don’t profess to be an expert at this stuff, but I believe we’re currently in an age of under-cooking.

Think about it- it’s all about texture these days, no? Pasta is al dente, fish cooked just through and not a second longer, and anyone who orders their steak any better done than medium-rare is instantly relegated to uncool territory. I’m not saying I disagree with any of this (except maybe the steak thing, for obvious reasons), just pointing it out. Clearly, the days of Grandma’s overcooked meat and veg are long gone.

But every now and then, it’s nice to go against the tide and cook the s**t out of something. This recipe for Long-Cooked Broccoli comes from Alice Waters, and slowly cooks the vegetable until it completely breaks down, rendering it unrecognizable, yet mouthwatering. It ends up in a part solid, part liquid state that’s equally comfortable acting as a side dish or as a sauce for pasta, rice or fish.

Long-Cooked Broccoli with Buttermilk

The recipe calls for broccoli stems and florets, another trend which seems to have fallen by the wayside. I rarely see a recipe that calls for stems these days, yet we always ate both when I was growing up. (We strangely referred to the florets as “broc-broc” and the stems as “broc no-broc”.) Once the broc (both kinds) have been simmered with some garlic and chili flakes for an hour, you stir in some lemon zest and season to taste. The addition of buttermilk adds a tangy richness that takes things to a whole other level.

So here’s to a new trend: things that taste good.

Long-Cooked Broccoli with Buttermilk

  • Long-Cooked Broccoli with Buttermilk
  • adapted from Alice Waters’ Long-Cooked Broccoli
  • serves 4 as a side
  • 1 large head broccoli
    3 Tbs. olive oil
    3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    1/4 tsp. chili flakes
    1 cup water
    zest of one lemon
    1/3 cup buttermilk
    sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1. Cut the broccoli into small florets, and peel and slice the stem pieces). Rinse and set aside.

    2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook for one minute. Add the broccoli and stir everything well. Continue cooking for 4-5 minutes, until everything is very fragrant.

    3. Add the water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to very low, cover, and simmer for one hour. Check occasionally to stir and make sure the mixture isn’t sticking; you may need to add more water.

    4. After one hour, remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and buttermilk. Season to taste and stir vigorously, to give the broccoli the texture of a coarse purée. Serve immediately, as a side or sauce.


  1. Ashley says:

    this is have to try!!

  2. Vicki Randle says:

    This sounds yummy! I woud serve it as a sauce on gnocchi!

  3. Dana says:

    I’m going to have to try this. Broccoli is my favorite vegetable and I’m sure I would love it this way. And another way to use that always-in-my-fridge buttermilk. Have a great weekend, Ele!

  4. I like this idea, sounds very tasty.

  5. Ellen says:

    “But every now and then, it’s nice to go against the tide and cook the s**t out of something.” Hahaha, hear, hear!

  6. Sharmila says:

    Sounds amazing. Would make a fabulous sauce too. I love broccoli and buttermilk. This is an intriguing combo. Can’t wait to try it!

  7. Nicole says:

    This sounds absolutely delicious and easy.

  8. What a great idea, am on my way out to buy some broccoli now!!

  9. I made this broccoli today, it was really, really good. Thanks for the recipe Ele.

  10. samarahuel says:

    So, that picture on the bottom, is that just chicken (raw? cooked?) with the sauce and Parmesan? How would you go about cooking it? Sauteing the meat first? Baking it all together?

    One more question, does this have a particularly broccoli-like flavor, or more importantly, smell? My broc-averse husband stays far away from the stuff because of his elementary school cafeteria, which cooked a broccoli-and-cheese dish weekly and filled the entire school with it’s inescapable stench. I don’t want to sabotage my efforts of redeeming this vegetable in his eyes by committing the same mistake.

  11. Ele says:

    samarahuel- The picture at the end of the post is actually Sweet Potato Gnocchi, just tossed with the broccoli and topped with parmesan. Any pasta would work, too. I don’t eat meat so I’m afraid I don’t have many suggestions for pairing this with chicken!

    Hmm, this dish definitely does smell like broccoli, as does any where the vegetable is boiled, simmered, sautéed or similar. If you’re keen to hook the hubs on broccoli (which sounds like a worthwhile endeavour, btw!), I’d start with recipes that roast it. Amateur Gourmet has some great ones, including this great side dish and this one with shrimp. Once he’s hooked on those (and anyone who tries them will be, believe me), you can move on to others. My own Broccoli Pesto is less “broccoli-ly”, and might be a good one to try.

  12. adrienne says:

    wow this sounds delicious as does the broccoli pesto. i’ll have to try this as soon as broccoli’s in season here. thanks for sharing :)