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.
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
- 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.