By J.M. HIRSCH
Truth is, it’s such a versatile vegetable seemingly unbound by season, it becomes a go-to vegetable — particularly in winter — for the American dinner table. Nothing wrong with that. It tastes great, cooks quickly and is great for you. But it can sometimes feel as though it’s on repeat mode, which is hard to get excited about.
Which is why I’ve become a pro at jazzing up my broccoli. Not that I’m willing to spend a whole lot of time or energy to do so. It is, after all, usually served as a side. But I’ve found it is easy to transform broccoli into something worth looking forward to, no matter how many nights a week it is served.
Peanut broccoli with shaved lemon (pictured above, photo by Matthew Mead/AP) is one of my favorite variations. It does, however, require a special tool — a mandoline. Shaped like a long, thin board fitted with a particularly sharp blade, mandolines are used to shave produce paper thin. And while you can spend a fortune on a fancy one, I’m a fan of the cheap plastic versions often sold in Asian markets.
I use mine to shave garlic for salads (thinly shaved garlic is a great addition to vinaigrette) or onions for a delicate stir-fry. It’s also a great way to prep toppings for pizza. Thinly shaved bell peppers and mushrooms cook up so much better than large slices (which inevitably remain raw).
In this recipe, the mandoline is used to shave a lemon — rind and all — into thin rounds which lend a delicious, but not overpowering, hit of bright acid to the otherwise heavy flavors of broccoli sauteed in sesame oil and topped with peanuts. The honey drizzled on at the end ties everything together.
PEANUT BROCCOLI WITH SHAVED LEMON
Start to finish: 20 minutes
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided
6 cups chopped broccoli florets and stalks
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup roasted and salted peanuts
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the broccoli and saute for 10 minutes, or until just barely starting to brown. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, then saute for another 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender and lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with the honey and remaining 1 tablespoons of sesame oil, then sprinkle the peanuts evenly over the broccoli.
Using a mandoline, shave thin slices of the lemon over the broccoli, adding as little or as much as desired.
Nutrition information per serving: 220 calories; 140 calories from fat (64 percent of total calories); 16 g fat (2.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 5 g protein; 190 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at LunchBoxBlues.com.