Saturday 5 January 2013

Power foods #3 - Roasted broccoli to make it more fun to eat your greens

When I was growing up, before I discovered the delights of butternut squash, spinach and aubergine, broccoli was my favourite vegetable. Its vibrant spray of delicate leaves was far preferable to me than its cousins - the limp cabbage and pallid cauliflower - and I would always select this bushy green as a steamed side dish during special meals at home.

Sadly broccoli has been contraband for me during the past couple of years as my boyfriend always actively disliked it, and all my previous attempts to smuggle it into stir-fries and pasta bakes have been foiled.

But having recently learned that broccoli is a "power food" that boosts immunity and enhances fat burn, I've decided the time has come to plant it firmly back on my menu. Trawling Pinterest for inspiration on how to give boring broccoli a boost, I stumbled upon this Amateur Gourmet / Barefoot Contessa recipe and could instantly imagine it converting any skeptics of the tree-like vegetable. Caramelising the florets provides an unusual crunchy texture, and the combination of sharp lemon and nutty cheese gives an added depth of flavour reminiscent of Italian cuisine.

Like most people I'm now on a New Year health-kick after overindulging at the end of last year, and am definitely going to serve up plenty of portions of this roasted broccoli alongside my low-calorie simple seafood suppers over the next few weeks. It's one of those delightful recipes where precise quantities don't matter, and the tones can be tweaked to suit your own preferences. It is just as easy to prepare for one person as it is for a whole family, and can be bulked out with other mood-improving "power foods" such as broad beans or asparagus to help you beat those January blues!

Roasted broccoli (serves 2)

1 large broccoli head

2 tbsp rapeseed / olive oil

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 large handful Parmesan cheese, grated


1. Preheat oven to 200C. Chop broccoli into large florets and place in an oven-proof dish.

2. Pour over the oil and throw in the sliced garlic, plus a good sprinkling of rock salt and ground black pepper. Mix everything together in the dish to ensure that all the broccoli florets are coated.

Note: I know some people aren't keen on biting into thick slices of garlic, so next time I make this recipe I'm going to use the garlic crusher I was given for Christmas to see if this improves the balance of flavours.

3. Place the dish in the hot oven and roast for 20 - 25 minutes, until the broccoli stalks become tender and some of the florets are browned. It's worth checking on your roasted broccoli about two-thirds of the way through the cooking time to make sure your greens don't become cinders!

4. Once your broccoli is roasted, remove from the oven and place on a heat-proof surface. Grate over the lemon zest then squeeze over the juice. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top then mix to combine all the flavours together before serving.

Note: You might wish to add a drizzle more oil at this stage, and more seasoning. Ina Garten also throws in some pine nuts to intensify the dish's pesto-like qualities, and I added boiled broad beans to complete the "power food" trinity.

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