Broccoli bridges the gap

Posted: April 18, 2013

I try to buy produce locally and cook it seasonally. But there comes a time in late winter-early spring when I can't bear to roast another Brussels sprout, bake another sweet potato, or massage another leaf of kale into submission.

That's when I buy broccoli grown who knows where and transported to my friendly neighborhood Whole Foods Market. Call it a bridge to the days of peas and asparagus.

Once I get it home, I usually douse it with curry powder and roast it, or microwave it and finish it under the broiler. But I've been trying to break out of those ruts, too, looking for ideas that speak of spring.

I found something that fills the bill in the new cookbook Meatless: More Than 200 of the Very Best Vegetarian Recipes, by the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living (Clarkson Potter). The broccoli becomes a pesto of sorts - one without cheese and with less basil than usual.

The recipe uses wide rice noodles instead of pasta, a choice that adds even more lightness and also makes the dish gluten-free. But not just any old rice noodles; at Whole Foods I found brown rice noodles from Annie Chun's, and they cooked up just as slippery-tender as the white-rice variety, with more fiber.

They've become part of my dinnertime rotation, and I'm sure they'll stay there - even once I can buy broccoli, and more, from a farmer instead.

With no cheese and no gluten, this dish is friendly for vegans and celiacs while providing the kind of flavor that will satisfy any vegetable lover. Look for medium noodles - sometimes labeled rice sticks, rice fettuccine, or banh pho - and if you can find them made from brown rice, all the better.

4 servings

Salt

1 head broccoli (about 1 pound)

1/3 cup sliced toasted almonds, plus more for garnish (see note)

1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, plus several small leaves for garnish

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces medium riceĀ noodles, preferably brown rice noodles

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

2. Cut the broccoli into florets and thinly slice the stems. Add the florets and stems to the water; cook until bright green and barely tender, 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer broccoli to a bowl. Reserve the cooking water for the rice noodles. Season the vegetable with salt and let it cool slightly.

3. Coarsely chop 1 cup of the blanched florets. Add the remaining florets and stems to the bowl of a food processor along with the almonds, basil, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Puree to form a smooth pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Return the cooking water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and cook according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the noodles, rinse them in cold water, and return them to the pot (off the heat). Toss with the pesto to coat, adding enough reserved water to create a creamy sauce.

5. Divide among individual bowls; top each portion with the reserved chopped broccoli florets, small basil leaves, and sliced almonds. Grind pepper on top and serve.

Note: Toast the almonds in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat until lightly browned and fragrant. Cool before using.

Make ahead: The pesto can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

- Adapted from Meatless: More Than 200 of the Very Best Vegetarian Recipes,

from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living (Clarkson Potter, 2013)

Per serving: 450 calories, 7 g protein, 57 g carbohydrates, 23 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar

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