Off Night

I was so hopeful.

With Mike away in NYC, I was really looking forward to indulging in some of the things he isn’t really crazy about. Like broccoli – a vegetable that has always been near the top of my list, but one he has yet to truly embrace. So while my husband was getting his pork on with some cocktail buddies, I decided to whip up a simple pasta dish for myself.

And it kind of sucked.

Dinner:  November 2, 2009

Despite the inclusion of red chile flakes, lemon zest, and crispy anchovy breadcrumbs, this tasted like a whole lot of nothing. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t disappointed – I feel like that gorgeous broccoli was wasted here, and I couldn’t for the life of me think of how to save it.

19 thoughts on “Off Night

  1. Julia says:

    I wonder whether there are subtle changes in what we crave…Last fall I really, really found Brussels sprouts delicious (much to my surprise!), and this year when they showed up again all fresh and new in the market I bought some and cooked them in the same way I had before…and they weren’t delicious. I mean, they were fine, but they didn’t have that “must have more!” flavor that I remembered.

    But your idea here looks so good… what if you heated the chili and garlic and anchovy in olive oil and drizzled that over the broccoli? or roasted the broccoli? (I guess I’m just adding oil here–not really much of an inventive solution 🙂

  2. Dale says:

    Jen–I’m thinkin’ a little spill of olive oil and some grated parm might have warmed up the red chile flakes and the lemon? Or having steamed the broc in chicken broth?

  3. Della says:

    Saute some slivers of garlic (be generous) and saute with salt until crispy in olive oil then remove. Cook your broccoli in that oil (maybe you’ll need to steam it a bit first but only briefly) then add a little pasta water to loosen, more salt, chili, and serve over the pasta — adding back the garlic. Serve with lots of grated Parmesan. It’s very tasty.

  4. Susan says:

    I eat broccoli when my family is away, too! I love to roast it in the oven, tossed in olive oil with cumin and whole cardamom seeds (thank you, Melissa Clark and the NYTimes). Try roasting it with the oil, garlic and chili flakes and then giving it a squeeze of lemon as soon as it comes out of the oven. I bet that would be heavenly. When is my family going to be away again???

  5. This is a special subgroup of the “foods I eat when I’m on my own” category: “vegetables I eat when my partner is out of town.” I’m the girl shoveling zucchini into my mouth—straight from the pan.

  6. Susan says:

    Sorry, that should have been cumin and coriander in my earlier comment. Hadn’t had quite enough coffee yet…

  7. Maybe it was the moon. I taught a candymaking class last night; nothing worked. Toffee separated, ganache didn’t set fast enough, chocolate wouldn’t hold temper …

    I will confess that I’ve always had problems with broccoli and pasta dishes. The broccoli never seems to mesh with the pasta. My only real winner has been a broccoli “pesto”: broccoli and lots of garlic, cooked slowly (45+ minutes) over medium low heat until it’s broken down to a pesto-like consistency. Add salt and oil to taste. Toss with hot pasta and a little cooking water to keep things saucy. Anchovy breadcrumbs would be great on this.

  8. The next time you’re home alone, don’t even both with the pasta. Just cook a whole head of broccoli Heston Blumenthal-style. ( Trust me — it’s addictive…just add in a hunk of bread and some good cheese, and I promise it’s a whole meal. Well, it is for me, anyway! Mike may even enjoy it this way…

    as an aside, when I was living by myself a few years ago and I got home from work really late, a go-to meal for me would be penne and broccoli, tossed in a “sauce” made with lemon juice and zest, lots of parm, (and I do mean lots) and a glug or 2 of peppery olive oil. It was familiar and comforting, if not a little boring.

  9. Jennifer Hess says:

    Thanks for all of your great suggestions! I have to say I’m not a huge fan of mixing fish – in this case the anchovies – with cheese, but perhaps I should have chosen cheese over anchovies! I thought I would have a good dish – I started with a bagna cauda-like mixture of butter and olive oil, into which I melted the anchovies, then I added a bunch of sliced garlic and crisped up my breadcrumbs in the garlic and anchovy-infused fat. I removed them and used that same flavorful fat to saute my broccoli, adding half of my red chile flakes in so their heat would be distributed throughout. In went my pasta and some of the starchy cooking water, then I sprinkled the anchovy crumbs, lemon zest, and remaining chile flakes on top. It just didn’t work for me, and I’m not sure why, but I do think that I probably should have gone with a different preparation altogether for this broccoli. Ah, well. Live and learn, right? 😀

  10. I did just that the other day! I added chopped black olives to my standard soft broccoli sauce for pasta, since I didn’t have any Parm. And it just ended up kind of salty and briny. For a change. I couldn’t quite finish my dinner.

  11. Erin says:

    Needs cream! I always find that broccoli in pasta is better in a cream-based sauce… sort of blends the flavors and textures more. It need not be overly creamy and rich, but a splash of cream at the end with a bit of grated cheese might make this work next time!

  12. Broccoli is on my list of foods I indulge in when my man is out of town, right up there with mushrooms and salmon.
    This dish you made looks so good, it’s hard to believe the taste wasn’t there. I guess sometimes things fail for no good reason!

  13. Gwen says:

    Marcella Hazan – oriecchette with broccoli. Husb made it last night; it has anchovies, hot pepper, parmesan, and not sure what else. Sounds to me you got pretty close; just different pasta and you need the cheese!

  14. I also had to add that while I’m not a fan of mixing cheese with any kind of seafood, I was surprised to find that it is done in Italy sometimes.
    In Rome we had 2 experiences with fresh anchovies were served with Romano cheese and breadcrumbs, and it actually was delicious!

    (I’m having so much trouble imagining how that gorgeous-looking dish could taste anything less than superlative…)

  15. Winnecke says:

    I’m just like you, I ADORE broccoli but live in a family where sadly broccolini has taken over !

    this week my mum made a pasta dish that has broccoli as the main ingredient and it is fabulous ! It is from the blue River Café cookbook. The pasta used is the giant shells. The main ingrediants are broccoli, salted sardines, some chili flakes and a little cream. you only blitz half the sauce so there are lovely chunks of broccoli in it.

    definitely a recipe to track down … I’m sure your hubby would like it, it is really a fabulous way for non-broccoli lovers to enjoy broccoli.

  16. My absolute favorite pasta with broccoli recipe is browned butter, broccoli, and mizthra (or ricotta de salata). So simple and delicious.

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