The current selection of our Cook the Books Club is The Unprejudiced Palate: Classic Thoughts on Food and the Good Life by Angelo Pellegrini1 (1948). At the beginning, the author declares what his book is about:
I concluded that what America needs is not another cookbook, but a book on bread and wine in relation to life.
As Greg Atkinson states in his West Coast Soup:
[Pellegrini's] book did not provide any recipes per se. Instead, it provided an alternate perspective on cooking.
Such perspective is profoundly influenced by his Italian heritage and his upbringing as the son of recent immigrants to the US (he went on to become a professor of English at the University of Washington).
I thoroughly enjoyed the book: the language, the tone, the stories. Pellegrini's measured attitude makes the reading always interesting—even when I may not agree with him. I know that in part that was due to my comparing my experience with his: I am also Italian and an immigrant—though I moved to the US for different reasons and as an adult.
Though it contains no detailed recipes, Pellegrini's book describes a lot of dishes. One that caught my attention is a simple side dish (contorno) of broccoli boiled, then sautéed in olive oil (ripassati in padella) and finally gratinéed with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Besides broccoli, the dish requires ingredients always available in a typical Italian kitchen: olive oil, garlic, lemon and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
There are a few things about which I am opinionated: Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of them. I buy a chunk and grate it as needed, right before it is needed. I am happy to report that Angelo Pellegrini and I are in perfect agreement on this topic:
The recipe below is based on Pellegrini's description, with steaming taking the place of boiling and with the actual quantities suggested by my personal taste and some testing and tasting I did.
- 1 pound 2 ounces / 510 g broccoli, preferably organic
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon / 20 ml Meyer lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 ounce / 21 g freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Wash and cut broccoli heads into florets, halving large florets lengthwise. Peel the tough outer layer of the stalk(s), quarter if very thick, and cut crosswise into coins. Steam until half-way cooked, then transfer to a bowl. (The cooking time depends on the freshness of the broccoli and on your personal preference in terms of softness.)
Heat the oven to 400 F / 205 C.
Cut broccoli into smaller pieces (i.e., cut florets in half lengthwise, cut long stems in half crosswise).
Warm up the olive oil in a skillet. Peel and quarter the large garlic clove (halve the small cloves). Remove the green sprout inside, if present. Add the garlic to the oil and toss. Lightly fry the garlic in the oil for one minute, then add the broccoli to the skillet. Stir well and cook until the broccoli is done to your liking, stirring often.
Remove the skillet for the heat. Remove the garlic and discard. Season the broccoli with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and stir well. (I am not sure whether Pellegrini stirred the broccoli after adding the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano: I decided to distribute it on the surface.)
Transfer the broccoli to a 9 1/2-inch / 24 cm glass or ceramic deep dish pie plate (1 3/4 inch / 4.5 cm deep) and arrange it to form an even layer.
Distribute grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the broccoli. Place the plate in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and serve.
Besides hot out of the oven, I like this broccoli dish also at room temperature.
FTC disclosure: I have received the placemat free of charge from the manufacturer (la FABBRICA del LINO). I have not and will not receive any monetary compensation for presenting it on my blog. The experience shared and the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the broccoli al Parmigiano-Reggiano audio file [mp3].
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