Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cooking Cousins
What’s cooking? Parmigiano-Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

I’ve always been grateful that we lived near enough to my husband’s sister that her three sons and my two got to spend most holidays – and many other occasions – with each other. I grew up down the street from my Texas cousins, and that connection to the wider world that you get with cousins – that sense of membership in a family that extends far beyond the people in your own house – seems to me to be invaluable.

The food world has lots of cousins that get along pretty well, too. Cauliflower and broccoli are on my mind today, mostly because that’s what I had in my fridge yesterday when I set out to make dinner. I’d just come across a piece about roasted cauliflower in Bon Appétit, and it set off a lightbulb in my head. The Kitchen Goddess is always grateful for lightbulb moments, particularly as they come fewer and farther between these days.

Broccoli and cauliflower are the original Cabbage Patch Kids. Different cultivars of the same species – cousins, if you will, in the actual cabbage family – the “tree” vegetables also share their heritage with brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens. The chief distinguishing feature between broccoli and cauliflower is that broccoli produces flower buds. I know, you might think color is the main difference, but you can find cauliflower in green or orange or purple, in addition to the standard white, and broccoli comes in green or purple.

And here’s today’s useless fact: Broccoli was introduced to the U.S. by Italian immigrants, and wasn’t commonly found here until the 1920s. Those Italians get credit for all the good food stuff.

Both veggies react remarkably well to roasting. The main problem tends to be in getting those florets a consistent size so that at the end of roasting, they’re not soft on the outside and hard on the inside, or some soft and some not-so-much. The Kitchen Goddess has a solution. At the Culinary Institute, they say, “Looks the same, cooks the same.” Taking her cue from the CIA, the KG realized that if she sliced both the broccoli and the cauliflower into pieces that were the same thickness, the size of the florets would cease to matter. So that’s what she did, and it worked like a charm.

Top the concoction off with a hefty sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and you have a dish that’s both tasty and easy. The combination of meaty, caramelized veggie slices and some roasty-toasty onions is just what you need on a chilly fall evening.

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

Adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2013

Serves 4.

1 small head cauliflower
1 head broccoli
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
4 sprigs thyme
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 425°.

Cut the largest florets from the cauliflower and broccoli heads and slice the florets lengthwise in ½-inch thicknesses. Slice the remainder of the heads also into ½-inch thicknesses. In a large mixing bowl, toss the cauliflower and broccoli slices, the onion slices and the garlic with the thyme and oil.

Spread the vegetables out on a large rimmed baking sheet, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Roast, tossing occasionally, until fork-tender and lightly browned, 25-30 minutes. Serve immediately.

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