Weekday Vegetarian: Slow Cooked Broccoli

It is the fashion now to cook vegetables very lightly, allowing them to retain their colour and often a bit of crunch. I cook vegetables that way myself.

But I tried a recipe this week that opened my eyes a little about cooking techniques and what long cooked vegetables could be like. When I say the words "slow cooked broccoli" no doubt many of you are thinking about a vegetable so waterlogged and mushy that it's no longer recognizable as broccoli. You are probably thinking of lunch ladies putting a ladle of the stuff on your plate in a cafeteria. Well, this recipe couldn't be farther from that reality.

This broccoli cooks for two hours (!) and comes out a beautiful, silky texture, with a softness that melts in your mouth, but isn't at all mushy. It is so redolent of olive oil and garlic and the broccoli flavour is quite intense.

The recipe calls for anchovies, and if you are making this on the weekend and are cool with that, by all means go ahead. If you are vegetarian, one of the commenters on the recipe said she used capers to substitute for the anchovies. I thought miso would be a good possibility as well. In any case, make sure you add something salty at the beginning, because it gets right into the broccoli rather than salting it after cooking which is just on the surface.

Personally, I thought the flavour was best when it was warmer than room temperature, but not hot. When I first tried it out of the pot just after I had turned it off, I was disappointed. Then I had it half an hour later when I photographed it and thought it was amazing.

My husband ate the entire plate of it standing in the kitchen after I had taken the photos. I made the full recipe and it makes a lot, so we had leftovers. I added some vegetable stock to it and pureed it for the best broccoli soup I've ever made. It had a really creamy texture without having any cream. I would absolutely make this again, even if just to get the fantastic soup at the end. The recipe says to use a large skillet, but I used my Dutch oven which I think would work better.

This recipe is from Food52.

Slow Cooked Broccoli

2 bunches (2-2 1/4 pounds) broccoli
1 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 small hot peppers, halved lengthwise (Finamore likes small red peppers, but you can substitute green Thai chiles, various dried ones, even a big pinch of red chile flakes)
4 anchovy fillets, chopped (or 2 tbsp chopped capers or 1 tbsp miso)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water is heating, cut the florets off the broccoli. Peel the stems and cut them into rather thick slices, about 1/3 inch. When the water comes to a boil, add the broccoli and cover the pot to bring it back to a boil quickly. Blanch the broccoli for five minutes. Drain.

2. Put olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the hot peppers and anchovies, or capers or miso. Cook, giving a stir or two, until the anchovies melt. Add the broccoli, season with salt and pepper, and stir well. Cover the skillet, turn the heat to very low, and cook for two hours. Use a spatula to turn the broccoli over in the skillet a few times, but try not to break it up. It will very tender when done.

3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the broccoli to a serving dish. It is delicious hot or at room temperature

Weekday Vegetarian: Slow Cooked Broccoli
Reconsider the al dente vegetable and give this slow cooking method a try for amazing results.

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