I dunno bout you, but I just don’t believe in the whole meal-planning concept where you set off to the grocery store to buy a half cup of peas, 3 medium-size bananas, 2 white onions & whatever else will fit exactly into the recipes you have painstakingly plotted out for exactly a week’s worth of meals. What about inspiration? What about improvisation? What about cooking according to what the produce gods & goddesses (I mean, the farmers) send you this week?
Broccoli, for instance, is something you can always get, pretty much anywhere in America, & for that I am eternally grateful (especially when I’m in Wyoming). But really exceptional organic broccoli—gorgeously green, so fresh it seems immortal, & bug-free—is a precious gift that only comes once in a while. I think it’s the bug-free part that makes it so rare. I don’t know why it’s so hard to grow unbuggy organic broc, but when the broccoli stars align, I pounce.
Here is Cruciferous Pasta, for just such an occasion, when you have broccoli to make you sing, & equally good, snowy, downy cauliflower.
(Sorry bout the unglamorous picture. I was hungry! That’s the edge of my pasta claw up there in the corner. The thing gets so much use, I should probably trade up for one that’s not plastic.)
a few young broccoli crowns
small to medium size head of cauliflower
very large shallot (or 3-4 small ones), chopped
small yellow onion, chopped
handful capers, chopped
handful pine nuts
small head of treviso, sliced crosswise into approx. half-inch strips
lots o’ olive oil & a little bit o’ butter
garnish: small dry-farmed early girl tomatoes, quartered & sliced, 1 per serving
Put the pasta water on to boil. Cut the broccoli crosswise (quarter-inch or thinner slices), starting at the bottom of the stalk & continuing up until the florets separate & fall into a heap. Break the cauliflower apart into trees or lollipops (pick your metaphor), then cut them into spears unless they are already fairly slim.
Heat olive oil & butter in a large pan, & add ingredients in the following order: onion & shallot, (pause), broccoli, (pause), cauliflower, (long pause), capers & treviso, (pause), pine nuts.
My pauses usually accommodate chopping the next ingredient, & I’m a fairly slow chopper. YMMV. All the while you are adding olive oil in generous amounts as needed & turning things so they cook evenly, like a very slow stirfry. Cook a good while, until treviso is dark, limp & nearly unrecognizable, broccoli begins to fall apart a bit, cauliflower turns translucent & shows browning on some of its flat surfaces, & the whole thing takes on a certain cohesive quality, having passed the stage of each ingredient remaining independent & discrete. At a late stage of this game you’ll drop your fresh pasta in the boiling water.
When pasta & stuff are both ready, add the pasta to the pan & mix it all together. Serve with tomatoes on top, & microplaned pecorino &/or toasted breadcrumbs.
But don’t go putting “broccoli” on your shopping list & thinking it means you’ll get this!