Roasting is a great way to cook vegetables. Cooking with dry heat (as opposed to the moist heat of steaming or boiling) really concentrates flavors, and you get some nice caramelized bits on the edges. Another benefit to roasting versus stovetop cooking is that you don’t really have to mess with anything. You throw it in a pan, put it in a hot oven, and come back when it’s done. There’s no stirring, flipping, or tending to a pan on the stove. This is especially useful when you’re entertaining, and you’re trying to cook a lot of things at once.
One thing that really helps when roasting is to have a good sheet pan. Cooking in high heat (425 – 500 degrees F) is hard on pans. If all you have is one of those flimsy cookie sheets that you can get at the grocery store, it’s going to warp like nobody’s business.
What you DON’T want:
For optimal roasting, use a heavy duty baking sheet, also known as a jelly roll pan. You can usually buy these at home stores (I think I’ve seen them at Target) but the best place for them is a restaurant supply store (where it will be called a “half sheet pan”). I have four of them, and I think that they were all about $10 – $15. They hold up great, they stand up to high heat and some abuse from a steel wool scrubber, and when they get so ugly that you can’t use them anymore, you’re only out $10 or so. Plus, the thick metal pans conduct heat better and will give you better browning.
What you DO want:
When you’re cooking broccoli, it’s important to peel those stems. Here’s my favorite way of peeling broccoli stems, as demonstrated by the talented Jacques Pepin (skip to 4:30):
As you can see, he’s using a paring knife to just grab the fibers from the base of the stem and pull them off, the same way that you would peel rhubarb. If you’ve ever disliked broccoli stems, you’ve got to try this.
Once you peel your stems, trim your florets and stems to about the same smallish size, toss with some oil, salt, and garlic, and roast the hell out of that broccoli.
(served here with some simple sauteed shrimp with paprika and garlic. The broccoli was the real star of the show).
Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Lemon
serves 2 – 4, depending on how much of a broccoli fiend you are
2 pounds broccoli, stems and crowns
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Trim the broccoli. Chop off the crown and peel the stems with a paring knife or peeler. Make sure to get all the tough bits. Cut the florets and stems into bite-sized pieces.
Toss the broccoli in a large bowl with the oil, salt, garlic, and optional red pepper flakes. When the oven is preheated, spread the broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender and the edges are starting to get nicely browned.
Remove from the oven, toss with the lemon, and serve, sprinkling with cheese.