All summer long, Kenji and I have been sharing incredibly simple four-ingredient recipes in our Easiest Summer Ever series. Now, sadly, summer is coming to a close, making this the last installment before we resume the series next year with new ideas. In the spirit of this transition to fall, I'm going with broccoli, a vegetable that is available fresh at farmers markets during the summer, but thrives in the colder autumn months.
The game plan is simple: Char the broccoli florets in a burning-hot skillet so that they get plenty of color while still keeping a hint of crispness in each little stalk. Then serve them with sardines straight from the can, quick-pickled shallot, and fresh mint leaves. It's one of those salads that looks like the kind of thing you'd get served at a restaurant, but is easy enough to put together at home.
I trim the thick bottom stems off the broccoli, peeling and snacking on them while I separate the florets with a knife and slice them into thin stalks. Then I heat a cast iron skillet over high heat with just a bit of oil in it—enough to help transmit that heat into the broccoli, but not so much that the broccoli itself becomes greasy.
I add the broccoli to the skillet, working in batches to avoid crowding, since I don't want the skillet's heat to drop or the broccoli to steam. If the pan is smoking hot, the broccoli should sear and char in spots pretty quickly. As soon as it has, I flip it to char the other side, then transfer it to a tray to cool and repeat with the remaining broccoli pieces.
The sliced shallot, meanwhile, is just sitting in a bath of red wine vinegar. After 15 minutes or so, it turns a gorgeous pink color as the vinegar tames its raw, oniony flavor.
When it and the broccoli are ready, I toss it all together in bowls with olive oil–packed sardines and fresh mint. It's a little depressing to see another summer go, but dishes like this remind me that fall offers plenty to look forward to.