Broccoli has always been there for us: It is reasonably priced, is available year‑round, and boasts stellar nutritional stats. How do we show our appreciation? We toss it haphazardly into stir-fries, steam it to a vibrant (but flavorless) jade green, or—perhaps most insultingly—dip squeaky raw florets into bottled ranch dressing. Doesn’t broccoli deserve better?
I wanted a stovetop recipe that would come together quickly and achieve rich browning to enhance the meaty stems and delicate florets. It made sense to start by taking the same general approach that we use for other skillet-roasted vegetables: Steam first, brown second.
I cut a little over a pound of broccoli crowns into wedges to create flat sides for browning and then carefully arranged them so that as many as possible were flush with the pan surface. Next, I drizzled the wedges with 2 tablespoons each of oil and water, added a sprinkle of salt, covered the pan, and cranked the heat. After about 4 minutes, the broccoli was bright green and starting to soften, so I pressed the wedges against the skillet with my spatula for maximum contact with the pan and then replaced the lid. Once the stems were crisp-tender and the undersides had colored, I flipped all the wedges to brown the second side and moved any pieces that were on top so that they had contact with the skillet. I then left the lid off so that any remaining water would evaporate.
This worked pretty well, but the broccoli wasn’t as browned as I had envisioned. That’s because broccoli has lots of undulations and textures that make contact with the pan trickier. Increasing the oil from 2 tablespoons to 5 helped fill the gaps between broccoli and skillet for optimal heat transfer and deep browning.
I had devised an easy, quick method that produced crisp-tender broccoli, with stalks and florets outlined by pleasing bits of sweet, nutty browning. Now to gild the lily.
Since sauces and vinaigrettes sogged out my favorite part of the broccoli—the beautifully crisped tips of the florets—I made two dry toppings. Both call for umami-rich, crunchy, well-toasted seeds: One combines sesame seeds with orange zest and salt—my take on the Japanese dry condiment gomasio—and the other features sunflower seeds supported by nutritional yeast and smoked paprika.