With just one episode of Good Eats, Alton Brown changed my views on broccoli forever. This life altering event occurred around the time that Dustin and I first moved in together. We were sitting on the couch one night studying for goodness only knows what classes and watching the Food Network when an episode of Good Eats came on that featured a better way to cook typically distained vegetables, like brussels sprouts and broccoli, which when steamed or boiled take on that distinctively stinky vegetable smell.
In his typically zany way, Alton described the benefits of high-temp roasting and grilling, in digestible chunks of chemistry. Essentially, it all boils down to the Maillard Reaction. What, you might ask, is the Maillard Reaction? The Maillard Reaction is the reaction which caramelizes sugars in food to turn it brown. There are many examples of the Maillard Reaction in modern cooking, from the browning of butter solids to form a nutty and complex browned butter to the charring of vegetables over an open flame. But really, when any browning of a food takes place, the Maillard Reaction is present, from grilling steaks, to making toast, to roasting vegetables or chicken, browning changes the flavor profile of a food in a way that most of us find delicious.
Why, you may ask, do we not get the same trans-formative qualities from steaming or boiling that we do from grilling and roasting? The answer lies in the presence of water (or lack thereof.) No matter how high you crank up your burners, water’s temperature will max out at around 212 degrees, after that it is transformed into steam. In order for the Maillard Reaction to occur you need to have amino acids (protein) a reducing sugar (like glucose) and temperatures over 250 degrees. Therefore, in the presence of lots of water, no browning will occur.
I bought these baby broccoli on sale at Whole Foods, broccoli, regular broccoli, or even Brussels sprouts, would work well in this recipe. The broccoli is divided and cooked two ways, quickly blanked for the pesto, and roasted at high temps till lightly browned to form the bulk of the salad. The salad is filled out by cooked grains, you can use any whole grain, wild rice, red quinoa, wheat berries, and bulgur will all be nice here, from a visual perspective adding some varied color into the dish may add some sex appeal to this homely looking side dish. I saved the broccoli cooking liquid (from blanching) and used it to cook the grains, not only does this save on water, but it allows some preservation of vitamins and flavor that leeched into the water during the blanching process. This dish pairs well with a lean protein such as roasted chicken, tofu, or pork for a healthy dinner or can be served as a dish of its own on top of some arugula with additional nuts and some crumbled tempeh.
Roasted Baby Broccoli and Grain Salad with Broccoli – Almond Pesto — slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
3 C Cooked Grains (I used a mixture of Bulghur, Quinoa, and Wheat Berries)
2 Large Heads Broccoli, Stems Chopped, and Tops Cut into Florets
3 Medium Cloved Garlic, Smashed
2/3 C Toasted Almonds
1/3 C Freshly Grated Parmesan
Pinch of Aleppo Pepper Flakes
2 T Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice (optional – zest of 1 lemon)
1/4 C Olive Oil
1/4 C Heavy Cream
Heat oven to 455 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a low boil.
Divide broccoli in half, toss half in a very light covering of olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Spread out on a sheet pan and roast until just browned, flipping half way through. Remove from the hot pan and place on a plate in a single layer to cool.
Place other half of the broccoli in the lightly boiling water for just a minute until just brightened, you don’t want these to be “cooked” we should just take the raw off of the veggies.
Cook grains in batches in the broccoli water according to cooking directions.
Place garlic and almonds in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times until “minced.”
Remove broccoli from the pot with a slotted spoon and drain fully in a colander. Add broccoli, Aleppo, lemon juice (and zest if using) several turns of freshly cracked pepper, and Parmesean in the processor and pulse again until small chunks appear (should not be a paste.) Add olive oil and heavy cream and process until it appears emulsified.
Place grains and roasted broccoli in a large bowl and toss. Add some of the pesto and toss until well incorporated. Add remaining pesto as desired and reserve any remainder for another use. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!
I was watching a preview for a new movie the other day – the movie focused on the impact that technology, and more specifically mobile technology and connectivity, has had on our lives. The movie centers on what has to be the biggest theme in film and literature in the past two or three years, globalization, and the effect that the new global economy and global society has had on citizens of this modern age. I worry that all of this connectiveness has, in some ways, taken us further away with the loved ones that are right in front of us.
Today is Dustin’ Birthday. As I am writing this we are in the car en route to Chattanooga TN, Dustin is on the phone with his parents and I am typing this post on my iPad. For us, who have so recently moved away from our long-time home base in Delaware, technology has enabled us to keep in touch, via phone, photos, chats and even blog posts with friends who are now hundreds of miles away. Also miles and miles away is the place where, almost exactly 4 years ago, Dustin and I met and fell in love. The last four have been the best years of my life so far and I am looking forward to many more with this amazing man of mine.
D started his new job this week. He has already thrown himself into his new work and is really enjoying it. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows him that he is a pretty spectacular engineering in training. His supervisors are noticing his eagerness and team spirit shining through in even these first few days. And with all this, it already seems that the pace of our lives has quickened. Dustin is working long hours and I foresee that trend continuing. Despite the fact that life seems to want to speed up, I have my heart set on doing what I can to slow things down whenever possible.
As part of this effort to put on the breaks and spend quality time with my lover and partner in crime I am hoping to uphold one of our longest traditions. Breakfast. You see Dustin and I have been eating breakfast together, almost every morning, since we met. Even when life is at its craziest it is nice to have a few moments together in the morning to start the day with a cup of coffee and a warm meal in eachothers company. Dustin and I love to eat eggs for breakfast and this recipe is fairly easy to throw together at the last minute and makes a fairly impressive morning meal. The dish is fairly flexible and could easily be adapted to include whatever ingredients are in season. Feel free to improvise with what you have on hand. One of the best things about this dish is that it can easily be sliced into portions to feed a few people (2-3) so share with your loved ones and enjoy the morning respite.
Bacon and Broccoli Frittata
3 Strips of Bacon Cut into 1/2 Inch Lardons
One Head of Broccoli Florets Chopped into Small Bite Sized Pieces
Pinch of Hot Pepper Flakes
3 TBSP Milk
Good Cheddar Cheese Cut into Small Cubes
3 TBSP Chopped Parsley
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl whisk together milk and eggs an set aside.
In a 10 inch ovenproof pan fry bacon until crisp and browned. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on a small plate until needed.
Fry broccoli in the remaining bacon fat until just cooked. Add pepper flakes and stir.
Now this next part must be done fairly quickly so that the eggs don’t cook too much. Add egg mixture, cheese, and parsley and stir. Sprinkle liberally with freshly cracked black pepper and stir again.
Place the pan in the oven and cook for about 10 mins or until eggs are just set.
Cut into slices and serve.