Remember back a couple weeks ago when we talked about broccoli? Maybe you thought I was kidding, that only a crazy person would OD on broccoli before moving to Egypt? Ah, well! Clearly you would be wrong, because for several nights last week I ate multiple whole heads of broccoli in one sitting. What? Is that weird? It really shrinks down when you roast it.
Have we ever talked about how one of my favorite childhood snacks was raw cauliflower, followed closely by raw broccoli? Also known as "trees," in classic childhood parlance. It is unclear to me as an adult what exactly about raw broccoli would have been appealing to me, but it was a great source of frustration to my mother, who had difficulty getting her underweight to child to eat anything more substantial.
Broccoli, now preferably in cooked form, continues to be a favorite of mine, which is why I was surprised to realize that there are almost no broccoli recipes on this blog. Perhaps it's because broccoli is not available in the Middle East, where I spend most of my time living and writing about food cultures therein. However, there are plenty of Middle Eastern cauliflower recipes, for which you can try swapping broccoli (though I'm sure someone would call this heretical, frankly I'm not that much of a traditionalist). This broccoli salad is basically a play on my favorite roast cauliflower salad. Instead of my usual tahini-yogurt dressing, I reached for some leftover sour cream which goes very nicely with the broccoli. Pomegranates and walnuts make this perfect for the fall dinner table. Or, so that you can eat multiple heads of broccoli all by yourself.
Roast Broccoli Salad with Pomegranates, Walnuts, and Creamy Dressing
Broccoli really shrinks down a lot when you roast it, so though four heads seems like a lot, this dish really only serves 2-4 as a side. This would also be good with a few dried currants or using pine nuts instead of walnuts. I save my broccoli stems and use them to make a potage-type soup, pureed with some turnips, onions, stock, and cream.
4 medium-smallish sized heads of broccoli
1/2 a red onion
pomegranate seeds from about 1/3 of a pomegranate
1/2 cup sour cream (or thick yogurt)
a squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 cup walnuts
Urfa Biber or Aleppo pepper chile flakes, for sprinkling
salt, olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with foil or silpat. Stir the sour cream together with the lemon and a pinch of salt and set aside.
2. Place the first head of broccoli on your cutting board parallel to you, so that the stem end is at your left hand and the floret end at your right hand. Slice the broccoli heads cross wise, as seen in this diagram:
You'll get some teeny tiny florets and some larger florets, which gives a nice texture variety to the roasted broccoli. Take any particularly large florets and cut them down to smaller pieces. Repeat with all broccoli heads. Discard or set aside the broccoli stems.
3. Place all the broccoli on your baking sheet and toss with a generous amount of olive oil so that the broccoli is nicely coated with oil. Spread the broccoli out on the baking sheet, and sprinkle all the broccoli with salt and two pinches of the chile flakes. Place the broccoli in the oven and allow to roast for 20-25 minutes. Keep a close eye on the broccoli, if it seems to be cooking unevenly then stir it around and redistribute it. When the broccoli is cooked through and the ends of the broccoli are dark and crispy, remove the broccoli and set aside.
4. Meanwhile, slice the red onion into thin slices. Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute the onions slowly, stirring occasionally, for about twenty minutes, until softened, translucent, and beginning to caramelize. After about 20 minutes, turn up the heat to high and saute the onions, stirring frequently, so that you get a nice brown crisp edge on some of the onions. Set aside.
5. Place half the broccoli and half the onions on a serving dish. Dollop half of the sour cream over the broccoli. Place the remaining broccoli and onions in the dish, and dollop with the remaining sour cream.
6. Wipe out the saute pan you used for the onions, place it over high heat, and toast the walnuts in the pan for a few minutes, watching carefully so the don't burn. Pour the toasted walnuts over the broccoli, top with the pomegranates, and sprinkle the whole dish with some more salt and chile flakes. Serve warm or at room temperature.