Quickie Dinner? Fresh from the Garden? Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli…
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I have been stalking the broccoli in my garden for more than two weeks. The weather in New England at this time of year is prone to wild mood swings -one minute it’s hot and humid and the next it’s cold and rainy again- and late spring temperature fluctuations can force crops like broccoli into maturity faster than anticipated.Â The minute yellow color begins to show up in the florets, the heads are over-ripe and losing flavor.Â When eaten straight from the garden, at its peak of freshness, the taste of home grown broccoli is one of the best arguments for retiring yet another stretch of lawn. So, early every morning I’ve been obsessively checking to see if my first broccoli crop is ready. And guess what? Here it is!!! Those dingy, yellowy heads of broccoli at the grocery store can never compare to this!
For a great initial harvest, and continued production of smaller side-shoots for weeks, be sure to fertilize your broccoli plants with fish emulsion or another organic product once a month. Broccoli performs, and tastes best when grown in compost rich soil with even and ample nitrogen content. Warm temperatures, full sun and steady moisture will give the fastest and highest yield . Spring planted crops usually mature right about now and summer-yielding crops will continue to produce florets even in the hottest months. A fall crop may be direct sown in the garden anytime in late spring or early summer. Although broccoli starts transplant well, this must be done with care as the seedlings do not like root disturbance. I plant my broccoli a little more than a foot apart in a compost and leaf mold enriched bed with companions such as radish, carrot, lettuce, and nasturtium. Mulching roots will help keep them cool, and prevent accidents with a hand weeder or hoe…
Steamed, blanched, sauteed or baked; I love broccoli just about any way, including raw, straight from the garden. I have tried many broccoli recipes , but one of the tastiest I have found is Ina Garten’s Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli from her Back to Basics cookbook. Since trying this garlicky-parmesan seasoning blend, I have taken to adding the cooked vegetables to pasta for a quick and satisfying early evening meal, or as a cold pasta salad dish at lunch. As is usually the case with Ina’s recipes, there’s nothing time consuming or complicated about this method of preparation. This dish is fast and easy to make, and the simple flavors of lemon, basil, pine nuts and parmesan perfectly enhance fresh broccoli, but never overpower it’s wonderful fresh flavor…
Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli and Parmesan
Ingredients: Serves 4-6
8Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â cups fresh broccoli florets, washed and prepared
4Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
1 1/2 Â Â Â Â Â teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 Â Â Â Â Â Â Â teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â teaspoons lemon zest
2Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4Â Â Â Â Â Â Â cup pine nuts, roasted to golden brown
1/3Â Â Â Â Â Â Â cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
2Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â tablespoons chopped basil leaves
1 lbÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â dry, packaged penne
Preheat oven to 425 degrees while preparing broccoli. Arrange the broccoli florets in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a pan. Sprinkle garlic on top of the broccoli, then coat with olive oil, (about 5 tablespoons) salt and pepper. Roast in oven 25 minutes or until cooked and a bit brown on the tips of the florets.
While broccoli is roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the penne according to package directions. Drain and reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
Remove broccoli from oven into a skillet or pan and toss with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, parmesan and fresh basil. Add a bit of pasta cooking water to the pan and slowly add the penne, stirring as you go, tossing well on low heat to combine flavors. Remove and serve in shallow bowls with extra parmesan.
Roasted broccoli may also be served as presented by Ina Garten in her Back to Basics cookbook -without pasta- as a simple and delicious side dish.
Article and photographs â“’ 2010 Michaela at TGE
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