Submissions close for the first-ever Ugliest Gourmet blogging contest in about ten minutes, and I scramble to bring you this humble entry. I contemplated plenty of visually off-putting dishes in the past weeks, but in the end, this simple vegetable side seemed to be the most to-the-point: Butter, broccoli and Parmiggiano-Reggiano — what’s not to love? Oh yeah, that gross green muck that it turns out looking like.
And watch out — if you don’t eat it fast enough, the stuff tends to dry out around the edges to a dull brownish-green. But you probably won’t need to worry about that since it’s so deliciously savory, cheesy and wonderful.
Is it coincidence that restaurant chefs seem to be fond of pureeing many vegetables nowadays, like parsnips, but I’ve never heard of the same being done for broccoli on menus? (Granted, I might be completely out of the loop here.) Without the parmesan, this versatile mashed preparation is definitely nothing new — this roasted garlic-tinged recipe appeared in Bon Appetit in 1997 — and its simplicity leaves room for any combination of herbs, aromatics or additions. It can also be served in a number of applications, as a dip, a layer of a toast canape or blended with nuts and olive oil into a pesto. I wouldn’t recommend slathering it straight atop pasta, though. I once tried this, and believe it or not, the broccoli flavor was so overwhelming it made the meal difficult to stomach. Remember that each spoonful of this puree yields more vegetable than a floret; without air, it’s condensed, pure broccoli bliss. That is, if you like broccoli.
Senior George Bush beware…
(makes about 2-3 side servings)
1/2 pound broccoli florets, trimmed of stems and chopped to evenly sized 1″ pieces
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of salt, or to taste
Steam broccoli in a steamer (or improvised steamer by placing broccoli in a bowl and putting the bowl inside a large pot with water at the bottom; in a pinch, you can also microwave broccoli in a bowl with a little water at the bottom and a plate covering the bowl). Be sure to cook broccoli until soft — not crisp-tender. Depending on steaming method used, this should take at least 10 minutes.
Once cooked, transfer broccoli to a food processor or blender with butter or parmesan. Pulse for a few seconds until mixture becomes smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if desired, and serve.
(for 2-3 side servings)
1/2 lb broccoli (at $2.99/lb): $1.50
1 tablespoon butter (at $1/stick): $0.13
2 tablespoons Parmiggiano-Reggiano (at $10.99/lb): $1.50
Two brownie points: You can’t really go wrong when what you’re eating is 90% broccoli — no matter what the other 10% is. One of my favorite vegetables, broccoli gives you 6% of your daily calcium per serving, a matching 6% for iron, tons of Vitamin C, fiber, folate, potassium, and Vitamin K. Sounds like a complete meal to me! (Strange tidbit: Americans only started growing it commercially in the 1920’s, of all places right here in Brooklyn.)