Ok, I know what you’re thinking. She overcooked the broccoli and her camera broke…all on the same day. Or after reading that maybe you thought, wait, what?! That undistinguishable mush is broccoli?! I concede both points, it is overcooked and it is broccoli. But hear me out, there’s a method to my madness, I promise. (And despite the appearance of these pictures, my camera didn’t break, lol!)
During undergrad school, I lived in dorms where the food was less than stellar and the only available kitchen was a kitchenette (read: mini stove and sink) that was always dirty (layers of grease on the stove, a sink full of someone’s dirty dishes…you know how it goes in college dorms) and was shared by the entire floor. So when Carrot Couture, one of my genetics class study buddies, invited me to eat dinner at her house with her family on Sundays, it was a deliciously welcome change. Her family was Italian and had a built-in personal chef – her grandmother!
Carrot Couture’s grandmother (who spoke only Italian but understood a little English) would make all kinds of Italian feasts, like veal osso buco and spaghetti with homemade gravy and meatballs. My absolute favorite side dish that she made was this broccoli (really, it’s incredible…the pictures obviously don’t do it a shred of justice, lol!). The first time I tasted it, I was giddy with glee and told my friend that I’d never had broccoli that tasted so good. I asked what kind of broccoli it was and her grandmother laughed and said “Italian”, as if naturally, that was the only explanation I needed. I tried to get her recipe, but it was really more of a method than anything else (grandmothers are notorious for cooking by feel and not writing down their recipes…perhaps this is why they are usually better cooks than their successors?), so I had to use trial and error to determine the amounts. Years later, I still make my version of this dish in honor of her…of course hers was better, but mine still isn’t too shabby.
Quick Serving Tip: This is great eaten as a side dish to just about anything, but it can also be turned into a fantastic appetizer very easily. To do so, thinly slice a baguette, drizzle with olive oil, and toast in the broiler, then top the toasted bread with this broccoli and some freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Seriously amazing!
(Yield: 4 servings)
4-5 c broccoli florets
1 large clove garlic, minced
Generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
Salt and pepper
Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and bring it to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt to the boiling water. Boil broccoli for 60 seconds, then transfer to an ice bath to cool; strain broccoli.
Dry out the saucepan, then add enough oil to generously coat the bottom and turn the heat on medium-high to high. Add broccoli, then add garlic, crushed pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté 8-10 minutes or until broccoli is starting to turn brown in places and disintegrate, stirring every so often. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.