crispy broccoli with lemon and garlic

crispy broccoli with lemon and garlic

I may have suddenly, and at least a month earlier than I’d hoped, reached the slightly less awesome phase of pregnancy, which I suspect is nature’s way of ensuring that despite all of the great things about gestating — thick, shiny hair! elastic-waist pants! people actually encouraging you to be lazy! — you will have little desire to stay this way forever.

cut the florets from the stem end
peel the stems

It started two Mondays ago when all of my shirts simultaneously stopped fitting, as if they were in a pact with each other to make a cold-bellied mockery of my attempts to avoid maternity clothing this time around. Then, this old lady I swim with told me I was looking “huge” and evidently undaunted by the dripping sarcasm in my “thanks?” asked how was I going to make it to July. Was I sure I was not carrying twins? I was going to need an oxygen tank to get around by summer! When I came home and my husband asked how my swim was, I burst into tears because all of these feelings have made me extra-lame to be around. Then, as if on cue, swimming got about 3x harder. Was the water always this glue-like? Did I always have to take this many breaths per lap? I joked to the nurse at my doctor’s office that the second I lay down, even for a second, this child starts what could only be interpreted as 1980’s Legwarmer, Headband and Hightops Aerobics and she said “that’s exactly what it’s going to be like when it comes out!” leading my husband and I to shake in terror at the idea that every time we sit down — basically our favorite thing, because it’s the best thing — for the next several years, something will happen that makes us have to stand up, even though as second-time parents we know this to be the truth.


crispy broccoli with lemon and garlic

Finally, my doctor told me my blood test had shown that I was anemic, but unlike a few hastily purchased t-shirts, a rehearsed “actually, I’m due next week! Don’t I look amazing?” comeback (spoken mostly to the mirror), and lowered expectations for what will henceforth constitute a “workout” — this actually relates back to the scope of a cooking website and is fairly easily addressed by (ahem) remembering to take my prenatal vitamins and reconnecting with green vegetables.

crispy broccoli with lemon and garlic
crispy broccoli with lemon and garlic

So, let’s talk about broccoli. Our favorite way — and the word “favorite” doesn’t even begin to do this completely addictive broccoli justice — to cook it came about mostly by accident, or what I like to call “the realities of weeknight cooking.” Having no multitasking skills, I’m usually so distracted trying to assemble something resembling a protein, a side, a vegetable my little laborer is willing to eat, that I forget that I have put a sheet pan of broccoli in a piping hot oven and it’s now halfway to charred and very crisp. In other words: it tastes amazing, especially showered with lemon juice and coarse salt. What started as an accident became an intentional practice, and now it’s pretty much the surest guarantee that my husband and I will polish off an entire head of broccoli with dinner. Thus, it is exactly — I mean, literally — what the doctor called for.

crispy broccoli with lemon and garlic

Broccoli Slaw I’m pretty sure the vast quantities of this I consumed last time I was pregnant is the main reason I didn’t run into these problems last time!

One year ago: Lamb Meatballs with Feta and Lemon
Two years ago: Yogurt Panna Cotta with Walnuts and Honey
Three years ago: Cinnamon Toast French Toast
Four years ago: Sour Cream Cornbread with Aleppo
Five years ago: Creamed Chard with Spring Onions
Six years ago: Buttermilk Ice Cream
Seven years ago: Cauliflower Bean and Feta Salad and Jim Lahey’s Pizza Bianca
Eight years ago: Tequila Lime Chicken and a Green Onion Slaw

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Squash Toasts with Ricotta and Cider Vinegar
1.5 Years Ago: Potato and Broccolini Frittata
2.5 Years Ago: Pear Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble
3.5 Years Ago: Apple Cider Caramels

Crispy Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic

Serves 2 as a side

1 pound fresh broccoli
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
A few pinches of pepper flakes, to taste
Finely grated zest of half a lemon, or more to taste
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
Juice of half a lemon, or more to taste, to finish

Heat oven to 425°F (220°C).

Prep your broccoli: Wash broccoli well — seriously, there is always a stem-colored worm hidden in the florets when I buy organic or from a farmer’s market, hooray for fewer pesticides! — and pat dry. Slice straight through the broccoli stem(s) as close to the crown of florets as possible. The crown should naturally break into several large florets, and you can cut these down into more manageable chunks. I find that less mess is made and less broccoli rubble is lost when I cut not down through the florets tops to halve chunks but up through the attached stems. (See 2nd photo above.) After cutting through the stem, I use my hands to break the floret the rest of the way in two. Don’t let the stems go to waste. I peel off the tough outer skin and knots and cut the stems into 1/2-inch segments; they cook up wonderfully this way, and at the same speed as the florets.

Drizzle the first tablespoon of oil over your baking sheet or roasting pan and brush or roll it around so it’s evenly coated. In a large bowl, toss prepared florets and stems with remaining olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes, salt and lemon zest until they’re evenly coated. Spread broccoli in an even layer in prepared pan.

Roast for 20 minutes, then use a spatula to flip and move pieces around for even cooking. Roast another 10 to 15 minutes, checking every 5, until broccoli is toasty and as crisp as you like it. (As you can see, we like a serious char on ours.)

From the oven, taste a floret for seasoning and add more salt and pepper flakes if needed. Shower with fresh lemon juice and eat immediately, as-is or follow one of the adventures below.

7 More Insanely Delicious Things To Do With Crispy Broccoli

  1. Give it the pangrattato and crispy egg treatment that we tossed with spaghetti in February, for a most excellent full meal.
  2. Give it the escarole salad with pickled red onions treatment — pecorino and hazelnuts ground together and sprinkled on the vegetables, plus some pickled onion ringlets. You can skip the lemon, as the pickling juices provide sufficient tangy contrast.
  3. Smash the broccoli between two slices of grilled bread with burrata, fresh mozzarella or even crumbled goat cheese.
  4. Skip the lemon juice and instead finish the broccoli with this sesame-miso dressing. Sprinkle with toasted black and white sesame seeds.
  5. Finish it with this lemon-garlic-tahini dressing. And why not some crispy chickpeas and chopped pistachios, too?
  6. Can you imagine David Chang’s Fish Sauce Vinaigrette on these? I can hardly handle how delicious it would be.
  7. Finally, this could easily be riffed into a bowl with quinoa or another grain.


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