Lifestyle & Culture

My Dinner With . . . Roasted Broccoli

Panini with roasted broccoli and mozzarella. / Photo by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.

WHEN WE RUSH into the house late, or when I’m pressed for time, or just want dinner fast, I turn on the oven and line a rimmed sheet pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. It’s gotten to the point that one of my nieces once asked me if I had an investment in an aluminum foil company. Not exactly, but I’ve come to appreciate how much I can cook on that one pan and how easy the clean-up is—perfect for weeknight dinners.

My current favorite is roasted broccoli. Roasting gives broccoli a nice hint of bitterness and a depth of flavor you don’t get from steaming. Better yet, it is so easy. You just cut the broccoli into whatever size florets you like; the smaller ones cook faster but also overcook faster so choose your size carefully. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, place on the foil-lined rimmed sheet pan and pop into an oven preheated to 375 degrees. After 15 minutes, I add thinly sliced garlic, which I have also tossed with olive oil and salt. (Note on the garlic: Always slice it when using it like this. If you chop it, it will cook too quickly and burn; if you leave the cloves whole, they won’t cook quickly enough.) I use tongs or a spatula to mix everything together and continue roasting the broccoli for an additional 7 to 15 minutes. How long you leave it in there depends on how you prefer the broccoli cooked. I like it more on the browned side, so a total of 30 minutes usually works, but if you like yours a little firmer, a total of  22 to 25 minutes should do it.

And then what? Here’s a few options:

Roasted Broccoli Side Dish: Remove the broccoli from the oven, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and enjoy as a side dish. A little freshly grated Parmesan is nice here.

Pasta With Roasted Broccoli and Garlic: The original emergency meal! While the broccoli’s roasting, cook some pasta; I like shells but it’s up to you which shape you use. When the broccoli’s done, toss the broccoli, garlic and any oil from the pan with the drained pasta. Add additional olive oil if needed. Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and pepper.

Roasted Broccoli Panini: You have to try one of these panini: They are surprisingly delicious, with the slightly bitter broccoli (roasted with garlic as above) providing a perfect counterpoint to the rich melted cheese. For each sandwich, I brush one side of 2 slices of Italian bread or any country-style loaf  (you can keep some in the freezer) with olive oil. The bread goes oiled side down on a cutting board. Next add a layer of sliced mozzarella cheese. Top this with a layer of the roasted broccoli, making sure to include a few slices of the roasted garlic. I put a few teaspoons of ricotta in between the broccoli pieces, then another layer of sliced mozzarella. Top with the remaining slice of bread, oil side up. If you have a panini machine, now’s the time to pull it out; if not, any griddle and a flat pot lid or heavy plate will do. Heat whichever pan you’re using and cook the way you would any grilled cheese sandwich. You can add a slice of prosciutto, salami or ham if you like things more substantial. The sandwich captures the spirit of a calzone but is much more fine-tuned, with a crispy bread exterior, a soft cheesy interior and a great punch of flavor from the broccoli and garlic.

—Stephanie Witt Sedgwick

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