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Broccoli with Walnut Pesto and Garlic

 
Often presented as the token vegetable at Asian restaurants, Chinese broccoli is usually prepared very simply, and is too often quite boring. As with most vegetables, adding a charred flavor changes the profile considerably, introducing both sweetness and bitterness that we play up by lacing it with a vinegar-forward pesto, which acts more like a vinaigrette. Szechuan peppercorns throw in some heat. But don’t confine this preparation to Chinese broccoli; the same nutty drizzle would be delicious on grilled zucchini, kale, or asparagus.

Ingredients:

  • For the Pesto:
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and crushed,divided
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed toasted Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the Broccoli:
  • 2 medium bunches Chinese broccoli or broccolini (about 1 ½ pounds), thick stems peeled
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For Serving:
  • 6 cloves confited garlic (see note below)

Directions:

  1. MAKE THE PESTO. In a blender, whirl 1/4 cup of the walnuts with the vinegar until the walnuts are just roughly chopped. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and whisk in the oil, Szechuan peppercorns, and salt, then stir in the remaining ¾ cup crushed walnuts. Set aside
  2. BLANCH THE BROCCOLI. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Cut the broccoli in half where the stalks meet the leaves. Cut any stalks thicker than about ½ inch diameter in half lengthwise. When the water boils, add the stalks, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tops, cook for 2 minutes more, then drain the greens in a colander and set aside to cool slightly. (If you want to blanch the broccoli ahead of time, dunk it in ice water here to stop the cooking entirely, and then drain it and refrigerate until you’re ready to grill it.)
  3. GRILL THE BROCCOLI. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat, about 425°F. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli pieces with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the broccoli for about 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until wilted and charred in spots. It will take less time if you cover the grill for a moment.)
  4. ASSEMBLE THE DISH. Transfer the broccoli to a large platter. Using a spoon so you get a mixture of big and small walnut pieces, dress the broccoli with pesto to taste. Add the garlic and serve.
  5. Cook’s Note: Quick Garlic Confit
  6. Our confited garlic is simmered in oil on the stovetop, which gives it a roasted flavor. It’s also convenient for us, because it’s much faster—and each clove holds its shape better than when oven-roasted. Place a head’s worth of peeled garlic cloves in a small saucepan, and add enough canola oil to cover the cloves completely (about ¾ cup). Heat the pan over medium heat, and cook the garlic at a bare simmer (you many have to adjust the temperature) for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the garlic is evenly tanned and soft inside. (Lighter cloves cooked over lower heat will have a bit less flavor than darker cloves. Note that burnt garlic will turn bitter, though.) Using a fork, transfer the roasted cloves to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Once the garlic has cooled, you can use it for flavoring meats; soups; or stews. To store extra garlic, cool the garlic and oil separately, then return the garlic to the oil and refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
  7. Recipe adapted with permission from My Rice Bowl, by Rachel Yang and Jess Tomson. Copyright © 2017 by Rachel Yang

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