I Dreamed of Broccoli

No, really I did! Of course it was only a daydream, but that daydream led to my new favorite roasted broccoli recipe that I plan on sharing with you once I get through telling my silly story. I was at the gym, on the elliptical machine, listening to Bob Marley on my new ipod shuffle (I know, I probably wasn’t moving very fast while listening to that), when all of a sudden I drifted off and started daydreaming about the broccoli in my fridge. Some friends and I had visited our little organic market the day before and although pickings were slim because we showed up later than usual, I did get a very nice looking bunch of broccoli, some carrots (dirt and greens still attached), lemons, and blood oranges. Now, why it was that I didn’t dream of the citrus fruit or the carrots that day at the gym, I’ll never know. But I just couldn’t stop thinking of that broccoli. Who daydreams about broccoli at the gym??
I had been planning on using the broccoli for either a quiche or some soup but all of a sudden I couldn’t stop thinking about eating the broccoli by itself. I just wanted to go home, steam it, and eat it. All of it. But then my broccoli daydream got a little more interesting. I started thinking about roasting it. I love roasted broccoli! But the recipe I’ve used lately for roasted broccoli includes so many heavy seasonings that you can hardly taste the vegetable. You see I usually douse it in olive oil and toss it with tons of chili powder, garlic and whatever else I feel like throwing in the mix, then roast it until just tender (have to give Rachael Ray credit for that). It always turns out great but this time I was craving broccoli, not chili powder.
So there I was, still on the elliptical machine, listening to Yusuf Islam (still not moving very fast) and I start thinking that maybe instead of dumping tons of spices on the broccoli, I could add a subtler flavor by seasoning the oil with some fresh garlic. That was it! Once my brain seized on that idea, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Fresh broccoli spears tossed with garlic oil, salt and fresh ground pepper, roasted until crispy on the outside and just tender on the inside. It sounded so good that I ended up hopping off the machine a few minutes early (broccoli seems like a good excuse to cut a workout short!) and heading home. On the way home, I kept thinking about the recipe and by the time I got here, I had decided that lemon juice and parmesan cheese would make it even better without overpowering the broccoli too much.
So, I heated some oil in a saucepan, threw in a couple of smashed garlic cloves and let it cook slowly over low heat while I started washing and cutting up the broccoli. At the last minute, I decided that some heat would make the recipe even better so I threw a pinch of crushed red pepper into the garlic oil and let it cook for another minute or so.
Next, I strained the chili-garlic oil into a large mixing bowl, tossed in the broccoli flowerets, squeezed the juice of half a lemon on top, added a pinch of salt, several grinds of black pepper and tossed and tossed and tossed until all of the broccoli was coated with the oil and lemon. Then I spread it out in a single layer on a baking sheet and put it into my preheated 425 degree oven. While it was in the oven, I found my microplane and grated up a little pile of Parmigiano Reggiano.
After 10 minutes or so, the broccoli was nice and crispy on the bottom and just barely tender, which is how I happen to like it. I dumped it all back into the bowl, sprinkled the cheese on top, tossed again and then ate it. All of it.
No, it’s not normal for me to daydream about vegetables at the gym. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve been eating almost nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches for the last week or so. My body needed something green! But it’s true that for the last year now, my head is constantly filled with new recipe ideas and once I get something in my head, I can’t stop thinking about it until I write it down or try making it.
I usually end up scribbling things down on whatever piece of paper I can find. Of course I generally lose these scraps of paper before I get around to doing anything with them. But if it’s a good idea, it will usually come to me again. This broccoli recipe ended up being written on the envelope of my friend’s wedding invitation (sorry Dustin and Elisa) because for some reason, all of the 20 pads of paper that I own have migrated upstairs and been lost in the Bermuda triangle of paperwork that we like to call our home office. I usually write the recipe as I’m cooking and then while I’m eating, I read it over and make corrections. I always try making it again using my written recipe, to make sure that it works. Usually it does, but sometimes I have to revise it a few times. For something as simple as roasted broccoli, I probably don’t need to test the recipe before publishing it on here but I did it anyway because it’s really good (even for breakfast, as I found out this morning)
Oven Roasted Broccoli with Lemon, Chili-Garlic Oil and Parmesan
1 bunch of broccoli
¼ C. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
¼ t. crushed red pepper (optional)
Juice of ½ lemon
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Heat the oil and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat. Make sure the heat is low and that the garlic is not cooking too fast. Set timer for five minutes.
  3. While garlic oil is heating, wash and cut your broccoli into pieces. I cut the flowerets into halves and/or quarters and leave a couple inches of stem attached to each piece.
  4. After the oil and garlic has heated for five minutes (the garlic should be turning golden brown, not burning!), add the crushed chili if using, heat for an additional minute then turn off stove.
  5. Strain chili-garlic oil into a large, heat-proof mixing bowl then add the broccoli.
  6. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the bowl then add a pinch of coarse salt (keep in mind that the cheese will add more saltiness) and several grinds of black pepper (if you don’t have a pepper grinder, why not??).
  7. Toss everything together well with a big wooden spoon so that each piece of broccoli has a thin coating of oil.
  8. Using tongs, so that the excess oil drains off, remove the broccoli to a rimmed baking sheet and spread it out in a single layer.
  9. Place broccoli in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 10 minutes. If your oven tends to be hot, check the broccoli earlier. If you like it to be extra tender, leave it in longer. At 10 minutes, the broccoli will have started to caramelize on the bottom and may even look a little burnt but don’t worry, it will taste good!
  10. While the broccoli is roasting, grate some fresh Parmesan cheese (I prefer parmigiano reggiano).
  11. When the broccoli is done to your liking, immediately toss it with as much cheese as you desire and enjoy!


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