Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Not Broccoli?

I collect about seven million recipes every year. (I’m exaggerating…a little.) And so when I finally get around to going through them, I’ve often missed the season for some of the more interesting ones. Take, for instance, a recipe for Spicy-Sweet Green Beans from Food Matters by Mark Bittman. This summer, I had plenty of green beans with which to try this treatment, but, of course, the notes I took on the recipe were buried in a notebook that was buried in some other papers, which were in turn buried in the ubiquitous clutter when we moved.

So now I have this recipe, but no beans, except, perhaps, for those that would have been grown a thousand miles away in the Emerald City or somewhere else perpetually green. What I was really interested in was the sauce anyway, so I looked at the last few CSA boxes of the season and said, “Why not broccoli?”

Broccoli is always a good vehicle for sauces, since its bushy, bushy green hairdo is lovely for trapping flavors like a mop. This sauce, which is quite thick, didn’t so much ooze into the broccoli florets as coat the whole piece with its rich spicy, sweet, salty, tangy goodness. You kind of have to scoop up the sauce with the broccoli rather than soak it up, but the result is just as good.

Actually, this isn’t really about the broccoli. It’s about the sauce. I don’t care whether it gets scooped by or soaked into my vegetables, or even what vegetables they are (I think it would be good with steamed cauliflower or sautéed cabbage as well as the green beans in the original recipe). It’s about the sauce, I tell you. This sauce is fabulously delicious. This sauce is one of my new favorite foods. I’m trying to think of a way to slather it on every meal. I’m thinking of giving it out to trick-or-treaters.

Okay, that might be going too far, but this is maddeningly good stuff with a sharp, strong, wake-you-up flavor from lots of garlic, plenty of dried chiles, honey and soy sauce. The sweet and the spicy are beautifully balance and the salty-tangy (some would say umami-filled) soy sauce and sturdy ground almonds fill in all the flavor spaces. The only thing I might consider adding is a bit of sesame oil. That, however, might totally blow my mind. If so, I’ll take full responsibility. I doubt I’ll be able to blame it on the broccoli anyway.

Broccoli with Sweet and Spicy Almond Sauce
Adapted from Food Matters by Mark Bittman

1 pound broccoli florets
½ cup whole almonds
2 large (or 3 medium) garlic cloves
2 dried hot chiles
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Place the broccoli in a microwave-safe dish. Add about 2 tablespoons water and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Poke several holes in the plastic wrap with a knife (this will allow steam to escape).

2. Microwave the broccoli for 3 minutes on high. Carefully remove the plastic wrap, avoiding any escaping steam. The broccoli should be tender-crisp, but you can steam it longer if you like. Drain the broccoli. Set aside.

3. Combine the almonds, garlic, dried chiles and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a food processor. Process until a coarse paste is formed. If the mixture is too dry to form a paste, add a little more olive oil. Set aside.

4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until the onion is soft and beginning to brown. Add the almond mixture from the food processor and cook about 2 minutes more. This mixture is fairly sticky in the pan, so you’ll want to stir and scrape it up frequently.

5. Stir in the honey and soy sauce. Add the cooked broccoli and toss to coat with the sauce mixture. Cook just until heated through.

Makes about 4 side-dish servings.

Other recipes like this one: Sesame-Soy Asparagus with Ginger and Garlic, Spicy Sesame Cabbage and Zucchini, Szechuan Broccoli and Water Chestnut Stir Fry

One year ago: Chard Soup with Cilantro and Lime

Two years ago: Homemade Pizza

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