Cathy Barrow, who sometimes writes for The Washington Post, and is also known as Mrs. Wheelbarrow of the blog Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen, invited the world to prepare a Marcella Hazan dinner October 26th, tonight, in Marcella’s honor. (Hazan, doyenne of Italian cooking, passed away September 29th.
This day ended up being about yard work and cleaning recycling bins, not about putting together a beautiful meal. Still, with a Marcella cookbook on the shelf no dinner is ordinary. I ended up preparing something, decided at the very last minute, that proves either Marcella’s, or Italy’s, genius.
Broccoli Stufati al Vino Rosso is unlike anything I’ve ever imagined could happen to that vegetable: the florets are cut off from the stems. The stems are peeled, sliced into lengths about 1/3 inch wide. Prepared this way, broccoli stems remodel themselves as an entirely new vegetable. These thin lengths are layered in a sauce pan with sliced onions, olives, anchovies and parmesan cheese. The florets are piled on top of the whole thing, and red wine is poured over all. Cover it, and cook it for an hour.
The red wine, parmesan, olives and anchovies merge into a luscious, slow-cooked sauce that cloaks the now tender broccoli and sweet onions. I see this vegetable stew simmering slowly in an ancient Roman clay vessel, filling the Atrium with winey, earthy aromas. That Marcella; she’s not one to let a good technique – no matter how antique – be forgotten. Not only is this dish fascinating – to cook broccoli this slowly with these flavors was a broccoli born-again moment for me – the distinctively delicious result was simply a surprise. This is fall-evening food.
My impromptu Marcella dinner doesn’t stop there. Just because Marcella’s recipes are often lessons in the complex promises simplicity can bestow, fresh out of garden gloves, I made her Pollo al Limone, Roast Chicken with Lemon. A chicken, two lemons, salt and pepper; leave it to Hazan to make alchemy with only those ingredients – it’s really the only roast chicken recipe anyone ever needs.
The chicken recipe is all over the web, so I’m printing the broccoli, which is from More Classic Italian Cooking. Hazan recommends serving it with a simple meat course; that simple chicken was it. I happened to see a photo of the stufati served on toasts, which would be dinner enough for me. Hazan would cringe, because she is never casual about pasta, but, I think tossing the broccoli with fusilli might be yet another born-again broccoli moment.
Broccoli Stufati al Vino Rosso
1 bunch fresh broccoli, about 1 1/2 pounds
2 cups onion sliced very thin
1/2 cup black Greek olives, cut in half and pitted
4 flat anchovy fillets, roughly cup up
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, cut into thin slivers
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup sturdy dry red wine
Cut away about 1/2 inch from the tough butt end of the broccoli stalks. Separate the florets from the stalks. With a sharp paring knife, peel off the dark green skin on the stalks and stems. Cut the stalks, lengthwise, into strips about 1/3 inch thick. Divide the larger floret cluster in two.
Take a large saute pan, and cover its bottom with a thin layer of onion slices. Over this spread a layer of broccoli stalks. Dot with a few olives, some bits of anchovy, and a few slivers of Parmesan. Sprinkle with a little salt. Just a small pinch will do because the olives, anchovy and Parmesan are already salty. Moisten with a thin stream of olive oil.
Repeat this entire procedure, alternating layers of sliced onion with broccoli stalks, moistening them each time with a little olive oil. Save the broccoli florets for the top layer.
When all the ingredients have been used up add the red wine. Cover, and cook for 1 hour over medium heat, or until all the wine has evaporated. Do not stir. Serve promptly when done.