I had an epiphany the other day, and it involved broccoli.
It’s taken me a while to come around to broccoli. While I wasn’t the pickiest of eaters as a kid, I didn’t have much of a taste for green vegetables. My mother and grandmother would typically make me have a full serving of whatever was on the table, whether a bunch of peas atop beef stroganoff (link here), a little bowl of vinegary wilted spinach, or a pile of sautéed zucchini. Broccoli, though, was the only one that I was never forced to eat. I don’t remember a dramatic scene that precipitated this—I think it’s more likely that my mother was able to see the difference between dislike and all-out gagging revulsion, and took pity on me—but I do remember hating the smell of cooking broccoli so much that being at the table with a bowl of it was almost punishment enough.
Eventually, broccoli and I reached an uneasy truce. Shortly after I left college, I started eating uncooked broccoli, and while I would never seek it out, I would eat it when I found myself snacking on a platter of crudités. A few years later, I begrudgingly started eating it in Asian soups, where it was barely hot. For the past year, I’ve been eating my weight in Deb’s broccoli slaw, which is perfect with everything and the sole reason why I buy dried cranberries.
But recently, I’ve come around on cooked broccoli, and in a big way. A few weeks ago, with a house that was finally feeling the chill of fall and a head of broccoli in my fridge, I decided to crank up the heat in my oven and try roasting broccoli. This isn’t a new idea to most people, I know. Normal people who cook and eat vegetables have been roasting broccoli for years—decades maybe. But for anyone else who is just getting to know broccoli, let me tell you that this. is. fabulous.
This is the kind of recipe that I feel almost embarrassed to write up, because it’s really that easy. Roasted vegetables with a few basic seasonings, topped at the end with almonds, some good cheese, and a healthy squeeze of lemon. The process is pretty much the same as I use for any roasted vegetable: I like to line my sheet pans with parchment for easy cleanup, and keep the vegetables relatively spread out to reduce steaming and encourage caramelization. Much like with roasted cauliflower, you can roast broccoli in slices or in florets; while the former is a little messier to prepare, but I love how easily it browns.
This recipe is incredible topped with a poached egg, or topped with some hot pasta and a splash of cooking water. It also makes a great side to roasted chicken or seared fish, and I’m pretty sure I could eat an entire head of broccoli just by itself.
Roasted Broccoli with Almonds, Grana Padano, and Lemon
1 small-medium head of broccoli
¼ cup olive oil
coarse kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup slivered almonds
generous ¼ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat oven to 450ºF. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
Cut the broccoli into half-inch-thick slices and spread across both sheets. (The ones on the edges will brown faster, so put smaller pieces in the middle.) drizzle liberally with olive oil on both sides, and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt, some ground black pepper, and a good pinch of red pepper flakes.
Roast approximately 10 minutes, then flip over the broccoli slices and return to the oven, switching the placement of the baking sheets. Roast 10 minutes more.
Remove from the oven and flip the slices over again; if they aren’t mostly golden brown all over, return to the oven for a few minutes more. When they are, sprinkle evenly with the almonds and the cheese and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes more, until the cheese is just beginning to brown. Squeeze the lemon over them and serve immediately. If desired, top with poached eggs or toss with ¾ pound of cooked pasta.
Serves 4 as a side or with pasta, 2 as a main-ish dish