I love nothing more than unusual vegetables. It’s as if you turned the nose on a talking doorknob and emerged into a secret garden. I get a secret thrill when I buy orange cauliflower or purple artichokes. As a matter of fact, it seems that almost every vegetable comes in some rare purple variety: artichokes, asparagus, carrots, peppers, and, now, indigenous to Britain, broccoli.
The British take great pride in serving and selling what is often referred to as the “best of Britain”—produce and livestock that is native to Britain, raised by British farmers, and served to British (or, in my case, American) consumers. Purple sprouting broccoli is one such vegetable, one which seasonally graces both the fancy restaurant vegetable side dish selection and the select produce stand at the local supermarket.
Purple sprouting broccoli has the look of something between broccolini and broccoli rabe, with its florets blushing deep violet. It has delicate stems, but lacks the bitterness of a bitter dark green. It tastes like broccolini, but with an edited leafiness of broccoli rabe. The last time I picked it up for dinner, I did a quick sauté with olive oil, garlic, anchovy, chili, and lemon. This recipe would also work well with broccolini, but if you happen to find some purple sprouting broccoli, it’s all the more exceptional.
Sicilian Purple Sprouting Broccoli
1/2 pound purple sprouting broccoli 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste 1/4-1/2 teaspoon chili flakes Zest 1/2 lemon Salt & Pepper
1. Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil, and salt it. Drop the broccoli in and cook for 2-3 minutes, until just tender, but still bright and vibrant. Drop in ice water or run under a very cold tap to shock the vegetable and stop the cooking. Dry on a clean towel.
2. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat until hot. Drop in the garlic, anchovy paste, chili flakes, and lemon zest. Let the garlic just start to cook, and then add the purple sprouting broccoli. Toss around vigorously, and cook until the garlic begins to turn gold, and the broccoli is reheated throughout.