Friday, October 4, 2013

Back to the Grill
What’s Cooking? Grilled Broccoli with Chipotle-Lime Butter and Queso Fresco

The great North-South migration is now in full swing. We have friends heading to Texas from Nantucket, the Jersey shore, Wisconsin, and Colorado; others fleeing Alaska and New Jersey for  Arizona; quite a few ditching New York and New Jersey for Florida; and a final few escaping Maine for the Carolinas or even just as far south as Connecticut. Makes you wonder who’s left to shovel the snow when it arrives.

As usual, arriving home after three months is more than a little disconcerting. Where are the knives in this kitchen? I thought I had more olive oil than this, and do I not have any garlic? And, for some reason, the internet service is down. It turns out that if you go away for long enough, there’s bound to be an electrical storm in your absence that causes various outdoor plugs to spasm or your router to have an epileptic seizure. The ice machine doesn’t work either, so we spend the first few days calling repair services.

Then there’s the chicken in the fridge. Friends, a word of advice: do not leave a partially eaten roast chicken in your refrigerator for a month. I’ll confess that I was the one who left it there during a brief mid-term visit. On my return, I didn’t even open the paper bag it was in – I just removed it carefully to the garbage can before it could explode.

On the other hand – and thankfully, there always is another hand – the weather is at last temperate enough to eat on the porch, and we are at last back in digs that offer grilling. Fall veggies present wonderful opportunities for that method of cooking, and I have one for you here, today.

A Couple of Short Digressions – on Broccoli and Chipotle

In the years when I was actively mothering, broccoli was my go-to green vegetable. (“Hah!” my full-grown sons would say, “You are still actively mothering.” Now, does that sound like gratitude?) Although I knew many attractive ways to serve it, their palates were still in the “Just plain, please” mode, and I was still a working mom with more to do than figure out fancy presentations of a vegetable.

By the time they left the nest, I’d grown tired of broccoli, so it was a while before I’d even bother to look at it in the produce aisles. Then I discovered grilled broccoli – specifically this grilled broccoli with chipotle-lime butter and queso fresco – and became so crazed with the taste that I made my husband grill it twice in the first week.

The grilling process brings out the slight sweetness – yes, sweetness – of the broccoli; the little bit of char adds a flavor note that’s almost caramel. Those tastes are perfectly balanced by the salty tang of the lime and queso fresco, with a hint of smokiness from the Chipotle Tabasco. And the butter just pulls it all together.

Please don’t be put off by the Tabasco. Chipotles are jalapeños that have been aged and smoked. Farmers allow some percentage of the green jalapeño crop to remain on the vine until the end of the season, when they turn bright red and lose much of their moisture. The growers then pick these peppers and smoke them for several days until they resemble dried fruit. According to Wikipedia, it takes 10 pounds of jalapeños to make one pound of chipotles. They’re then sold as pods, powders, or preserved in seasoned adobo sauce (a paprika-based marinade). This recipe uses a variety of Tabasco sauce that delivers – in addition to a bit of heat – a nice, smoky flavor. The Tabasco is only half as hot as a green jalapeño, and if you’re nervous, you can reduce the amount.

Kitchen Goddess note: (1) The chipotle-lime butter can be made well ahead – I’ve kept it for a couple of weeks. (2) And the queso fresco is a crumbly, unaged white cheese that, according Wikipedia, is traditionally made from cow’s milk or a combination of cow’s and goat’s milk. It’s a pressed cheese with a salty-sour flavor, lighter but not too unlike either feta or farmer cheese. I get it at most grocery stores in Texas, and with the enlightened nature of major grocers these days, you probably can, too. I had a few brands to choose from, so I lingered at the dairy case until a Latina woman showed up and I asked her which brand. She said she preferred  La Vaquita. It’s also very nice crumbled on a salad or in scrambled eggs.

Grilled Broccoli with Chipotle-Lime Butter and Queso Fresco

Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine, June 2012

Serves 6-8.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Zest of 1 lime, finely grated
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon Tabasco Chipotle Sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 garlic clove, finely grated
4 heads of broccoli, stems peeled, florets cut into large segments
Olive oil
1 cup crumbled queso fresco

Whisk together the first six ingredients. Season lightly to taste with salt. Allow the mixture to sit for at least half an hour, to let the flavors meld. (If you make it ahead, take it out of the refrigerator for at least half an hour, to bring it to room temperature.)

Drizzle the broccoli – florets and stems – with olive oil and season with salt. Toss lightly to get coverage with the oil.

Grill the broccoli over high heat, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes or until lightly charred and crisp-tender.

Transfer the broccoli to a large bowl or platter, and toss with the chipotle-lime butter. Scatter the queso fresco over the broccoli and serve.


  1. Delightful blog this morning! I have now started my day with a big grin and a new recipe to print out and take with me on a weekend trip where some grillin' is definitely in store. I am sure it will be
    a delicious surprise for everyone there! Thank yewwwwwww!

    Eileen in Atlanta

    1. And good morning to you, Eileen! Have a great weekend and enjoy your grilled broccoli.

  2. This looks like such a delicious way to prepare broccoli! Pinning to try soon...

  3. Yum--love grilled veggies. All kinds. Maybe add some sweet onions to the broccoli?? Our grilling days here in Seattle are about over, but there's always a few days when the rain stops and everyone rushes outside to grill some fish.

    1. I know just what you mean. And I love grilled onions -- big slabs of Vidalias or other large sweet onions. If you try them with the butter and queso fresco, let me know. I'll bet it's a hit.