I’m surprised by how often I read a broccoli recipe that calls for using the florets and discarding the stems, or stalks. A few years ago I took a Chinese cooking class, and among the many valuable things I learned from Ms. Mabel Lee was that broccoli stems are not garbage. Just trim off the rough, leafy outer layer and cut the stems into sticks or rounds. Then cook them along with the florets. They’re tender and flavorful—and if you’ve been accustomed to throwing them away, they’re free food!
The reason that broccoli stems (or broccoli stalks) are on my mind right now is that I recently made an unusually delicious broccoli dish. I was looking for a side dish for my brother-in-law’s birthday dinner when Ina Garten’s Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli caught my eye. Feeling I should browse a few more ideas, just to be fair to the rest of the internet, I next noticed a post by Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet talking about how Ina Garten’s roasted broccoli was the best he’d ever had in his life. I gave in and decided I’d better just try it.
Roasted broccoli, with its browned and lightly crisped edges, is approximately one thousand times better than steamed, sautéed, or almost anything-elsed broccoli. And this particular recipe—which includes thin slices of roasted garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts, and pepper—could not be more packed with my personal favorite flavors. I made another huge bunch tonight and ate almost all of it standing right there at the oven. In order to pry myself out of its spellbinding grip, I desperately stuffed the remainder into the fridge so it would get cold and lose its appeal. (It’s even pretty good cold, but thankfully the trick worked.)
I made a few small changes—mostly in the proportion of ingredients—to my version of this recipe, which I’ll provide below. Also, the original includes lemon zest and juice, but mine doesn’t because I forgot to put it in that first time and I can’t imagine the dish being any more perfect. I decided to leave out the fresh basil too, because as much as I love basil, I felt it was overpowered by the other flavors and didn’t really add that much. And of course, my version includes the stems!
Broccoli stems are not garbage! Just trim off the rough, leafy outer layer and cut the stems into sticks or rounds. Then cook them along with the florets. They're tender and flavorful—and if you've been accustomed to throwing them away, they're free food!
- 3 pounds broccoli, florets cut apart and thick stems trimmed and sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup olive oil (or olive oil spray)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Place the broccoli in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Toss the garlic slices over the broccoli.
- Drizzle (or spray) with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast in preheated oven until tender and slightly crispy-brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
- In a large serving bowl, toss broccoli and garlic with pine nuts and Parmesan.
- Serve warm.