It feels like we’ve turned the corner. Suddenly everyone is smiling on the bike path, shedding off the damp, gray cloak of winter and turning faces toward the sun. The trees are budding and the water in the lake is moving again; always a startling, impossible sight after so much stillness. It hasn’t exactly been easy to live in Wisconsin the past few years, for a number of obvious reasons for those of us who believe in logic and reason, nature, public education, fairness, humanity and snow in the winter… you know, those things. But the past few days serve as a reminder of why we do it. There’s that day. The one where everyone is outside and everyone is beautiful and everyone has a speckled cattle dog and all of a sudden you remember what green looks like. And all you want to do is get your hands in the dirt or sit in your friend’s backyard in the sun, beer in hand, soaking in the warmth. And walk for hours. And remember that there are people who put dinosaurs in their yard and knit electrical poles; the kind of people who help you remember that you are not alone in this fight to feel like things can be right in the world again.
And when you get home from that walk, you need to eat. Something nurturing but light, something simple but delicious. I have been making these broccoli melts from Smitten Kitchen at least once a week. Broccoli or broccolini lightly steamed and then doused in lemon, garlic and red pepper flakes, covered with provolone and lightly toasted on good bread; served with a slaw of red cabbage, shaved carrots and celery, it makes a perfect light spring dinner.
I have made the recipe from memory several times, but I recommend following the directions at least once- it’s really good just the way it was written.
From Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 8 small-medium open-faced melts
1 pound broccolini or regular broccoli
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
A few pinches red pepper flakes, to taste
Finely grated zest, then juice, of 1/2 lemon (juice before zesting only if you enjoy being grumpy)
Coarse salt, to taste
1/2 cup finely grated aged pecorino romano cheese
8 thin slices totally unfancy deli provolone
8 slices bread of your choice
If using broccolini, cut it into 2-inch segments. If regular broccoli, peel the stems with a vegetable peeler first so that they cook evenly, and cut the rest into large chunks.
Pour about 1-inch puddle of salted water into a large sauté pan and bring to a boil. Add broccoli and cover with a lid and boil/steam for 2 minutes. Drain well and pat dry on paper towels, wringing out as much extra liquid as possible. Chop into small (roughly 1/2-inch) bits.
Wipe sauté pan dry and heat over medium. Add olive oil and let it heat for a full minute. Add garlic and pepper flakes, cooking for 1 minutes, or until the garlic is just beginning to turn golden. Add the broccoli and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, seasoning with salt. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add lemon zest, juice, pecorino and more salt and pepper flakes to taste.
Heat broiler.* Arrange slices of bread on a tray and lightly toast on both sides. Scoop broccoli mixture onto each slice of bread, lay a slice of provolone over it and run under the broiler until cheese has melted and begun to blister. Eat. Repeat.
*We’ve been using our new toaster oven- thanks, mom!
I hope today finds you knitting an inanimate object or digging in the dirt or simply walking, in awe of the buds and basking in the warmth. Happy spring.