My grandmother cooked vegetables until there was no fight left in them, especially broccoli. She served it with plenty of melted butter and a squirt of lemon, and it melted right into the mashed potatoes.
So the notion of “tender crisp,” which works fine for carrots, kale, peas and asparagus, never seemed right for broccoli, with its much more aggressive flavor. Inspired by my grandmother’s approach, I’ve come up with another way to cook broccoli that also works well with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and other crucifers.
Most broccoli recipes advise blanching before adding the broccoli to a stir-fry or braise. But really, what’s the point? Broccoli contains enough water that it will steam naturally without additional liquid if sautéed in a little oil or butter to keep it from sticking and then covered for a few minutes before going into the oven. Using this oven method, broccoli can be cooked far past the tender-crisp stage to become meltingly silky in texture, with a deep, rich flavor. It is transformed into a completely different vegetable that works beautifully with sharp, hot, spicy or pungent accents. While the method requires long, slow cooking time, it asks nothing of the cook once it’s set in the oven.
The simple technique yields a dish with terrific versatility. It’s great tossed with pasta and a little Parmesan cheese, or served on polenta or grilled bread, or arranged on pizza. It makes a great side dish for grilled or roasted chicken, pork and lamb, a filling for lasagna, a bonus in soup.
Roasted broccoli does not freeze well, but will keep nicely for about a week in the refrigerator.
But in this kitchen, it’s never lasted that long.
Beth Dooley is a Minneapolis author and cooking instructor.