I dunno bout you, but I just don’t believe in the whole meal-planning concept where you set off to the grocery store to buy a half cup of peas, 3 medium-size bananas, 2 white onions & whatever else will fit exactly into the recipes you have painstakingly plotted out for exactly a week’s worth of meals. What about inspiration? What about improvisation? What about cooking according to what the produce gods & goddesses (I mean, the farmers) send you this week?

Broccoli, for instance, is something you can always get, pretty much anywhere in America, & for that I am eternally grateful (especially when I’m in Wyoming). But really exceptional organic broccoli—gorgeously green, so fresh it seems immortal, & bug-free—is a precious gift that only comes once in a while. I think it’s the bug-free part that makes it so rare. I don’t know why it’s so hard to grow unbuggy organic broc, but when the broccoli stars align, I pounce.

Here is Cruciferous Pasta, for just such an occasion, when you have broccoli to make you sing, & equally good, snowy, downy cauliflower.

(Sorry bout the unglamorous picture. I was hungry! That’s the edge of my pasta claw up there in the corner. The thing gets so much use, I should probably trade up for one that’s not plastic.)

a few young broccoli crowns
small to medium size head of cauliflower
very large shallot (or 3-4 small ones), chopped
small yellow onion, chopped
handful capers, chopped
handful pine nuts
small head of treviso, sliced crosswise into approx. half-inch strips
lots o’ olive oil & a little bit o’ butter
garnish: small dry-farmed early girl tomatoes, quartered & sliced, 1 per serving
lemon fettucine

Put the pasta water on to boil. Cut the broccoli crosswise (quarter-inch or thinner slices), starting at the bottom of the stalk & continuing up until the florets separate & fall into a heap. Break the cauliflower apart into trees or lollipops (pick your metaphor), then cut them into spears unless they are already fairly slim.

Heat olive oil & butter in a large pan, & add ingredients in the following order: onion & shallot, (pause), broccoli, (pause), cauliflower, (long pause), capers & treviso, (pause), pine nuts.

My pauses usually accommodate chopping the next ingredient, & I’m a fairly slow chopper. YMMV. All the while you are adding olive oil in generous amounts as needed & turning things so they cook evenly, like a very slow stirfry. Cook a good while, until treviso is dark, limp & nearly unrecognizable, broccoli begins to fall apart a bit, cauliflower turns translucent & shows browning on some of its flat surfaces, & the whole thing takes on a certain cohesive quality, having passed the stage of each ingredient remaining independent & discrete. At a late stage of this game you’ll drop your fresh pasta in the boiling water.

When pasta & stuff are both ready, add the pasta to the pan & mix it all together. Serve with tomatoes on top, & microplaned pecorino &/or toasted breadcrumbs.

But don’t go putting “broccoli” on your shopping list & thinking it means you’ll get this!

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At 10:47 AM , Blogger erik_flannestad said...

I am totally down with improvisational shopping and cooking.

I can understand it if you need to meet the nutritional requirements of a family on a limited budget.

Or if you are geographically limited in your shopping choices.

Fortunately, none of those apply to the Flannestad household, so it is all fun all the time.

At 12:23 PM , Blogger indigo said...

Yes, I agree the meticulous grocery plan is good for strict budgets & the like. I count my lucky stars to live in a fun Flannestad-like household! (minus the cats & cocktails, oh & I think we have a lot less recorded music too.)


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