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Fantastic Frozen Broccoli

January 8, 2019

Maybe you noticed a grumpier tone than usual in yesterday’s post. Ask me how my diet’s going.

It sucks.

But I have to diet hard, because during these weeks when I’m dieting, I also have work events that require me to eat. That means when I’m being “good”, I have to be “extra-good”, or else all that work will be for naught.

This came to a head recently when Little Miss Fussy wanted to go to a diner, and I struggled to make a sensible choice as I scanned a menu full of deeply satisfying comfort foods. What I ordered was a small Caesar salad with grilled chicken on top, knowing full well the weight of a creamy dressing and croutons. But it was small, and mostly made of vegetables, so I felt okay with the decision.

What I should have ordered was a cup of chicken soup with a side of steamed broccoli with oil and garlic. I figure it’s kind of like a deconstructed greens and beans, just without the beans, and with broccoli for the greens.

As we’ve been trying to eat more vegetables in winter, frozen broccoli has been playing a larger part of our diet than usual. And at least according to Mrs. Fussy, I’ve come up with a simple, quick, and delicious way to prepare the stuff.

Let’s talk about frozen vegetables for a moment.

Hopefully you are already of the opinion that frozen vegetables can be fantastic. But not all frozen vegetables. These convenience foods require no preparation, simply cooking. But instead of the premium prices grocery stores command for fresh sliced and diced vegetables, these are a relative bargain.

Plus, they are frozen and packed at the height of the season, so I’m told they are also deeply nutritious. But that’s neither here nor there. After all, I don’t optimize for nutrition. My priority is deliciousness, through the filter of whatever constraints I’m applying at the moment.

Right now that’s prioritizing vegetables, avoiding meat at home, and eating small portions of non-fried and non-white foods (aka refined grains and simple starches), only when I’m actually hungry (and only to the point of satiety), while avoiding wine, beer, or spirits until I reach my target weight.

Frozen broccoli can be freakin’ delicious.

Brands of frozen vegetables matter. There may be other good brands out there, but we buy the organic broccoli florets from Trader Joe’s. And these days, I buy them four pounds at a time.

So here’s the technique.

Heat a large cast iron skillet on high.
Add extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom.
When shimmering, dump in a one pound bag of florets.
Sprinkle them liberally with kosher salt.
Toss in the pan.
Sprinkle them liberally with more kosher salt.
Cover the pan, and leave on high heat.

At this point, the frozen broccoli will start to express water. The water will create steam, and now your broccoli is cooking two ways at the same time! This is when I start to slice up a garlic clove or two into thin thin slices.

When you see steam start to escape from the lid, count to ten.
Remove the lid.
Make sure florets are spread out across the surface of the pan.
Continue to cook on high until all the liquid evaporates and the pan begins to smoke.
Take smoking pan and let it cool off a bit in the oven while broccoli continues to cook.

That last step you might be able avoid if you have a powerful vented hood over you stove. We do not. But it’s one of those things I always dream about installing.

Put the garlic on top of the broccoli in a pile, avoiding the still hot surface of the pan.
Sprinkle it with salt.
Douse it with a good finishing olive oil.
And toss the oiled and salted garlic with the hot broccoli in the hot (but not hot enough to instantly burn the garlic) pan.

What you should have are well seasoned, tender florets that still have a bit of bite to them, and some beautiful spots of char throughout. The whole process takes about ten minutes, which as it turns out, is just long enough to cook a pound of Trader Joe’s organic 100% whole wheat pasta.

A bit more olive oil, some fresh grated parm-reg, a few turns of the pepper mill, and maybe a splash of pasta water, and you’re eating well on just a few bucks, and just about zero culinary skill or knife work. But you need a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Otherwise, you’re going to be in a world of pain when it comes to clean-up, and you’ll be missing out on all that delicious char.

Happy cooking!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily Lang permalink
    January 8, 2019 2:02 pm

    I actually roast my frozen broccoli with some seasoning on top. 400 degrees, about 30 minutes, more if you like it blackened (I do). Turns out delicious.

  2. Lauren Darman permalink
    January 9, 2019 2:40 pm

    Too much salt! Try red pepper flakes instead!

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