In 1928, The New Yorker ran a cartoon that expressed an enduring human truth. It was drawn by Carl Rose with a caption by E.B. White. It showed a mother and daughter at a table set with a vegetable that may have been broccoli. The caption, “I say the hell with it,” was an instant classic.
Seventy years later, I learned myself that no matter how fervently a parent wants her child to eat a bit of green vegetables, she is helpless when the child resists.
So when my 28-year-old son Sam, who has become a wonderful cook, volunteered to make his signature broccoli dish for us a few weeks ago, I got a little emotional.
The idea is to grill broccoli until it browns and caramelizes, then douse it in a sauce with an Asian pedigree. Sam favors fish sauce with its salty, savory flavor as a key ingredient. A little bit of heat and a lot of flavor comes from red pepper flakes, Tabasco and Szechuan hot sauce. Everything you need to make this is available at the Island’s IGA.
I followed him around the kitchen with a note pad writing down the ingredients and amounts, and now it’s my go-to for broccoli particularly when I’m grilling, which I do year-round.
The first time you make the sauce, use the lower measurements of peppers and hot sauces. Fresh red pepper flakes and just-opened Tabasco and Szechuan hot sauce is much hotter than stuff that has been sitting around for six months. Taste the sauce and add more if you think it’s too tame.
It’s broccoli, dear, and I say it’s heaven.
Sam’s Grilled Broccoli
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish
3 heads of broccoli, to yield about two pounds of florets with two-inch stems
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
For the sauce:
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons rice wine
2 tablespoons tamari
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 to 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 to 2 teaspoons Szechuan hot sauce
1. Cut the broccoli into one to three-inch florets and one to two-inch stem pieces.
2. Preheat the grill. While it’s heating, toss the broccoli in a large glass or steel bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper.
3. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and allow the sauce to come to room temperature.
4. Spread the broccoli over the grate positioned away from the direct coals, or if using a gas grill, over medium heat. Cover and let it cook without turning it until the side near the heat is very dark brown, even a little scorched in places. Depending on the heat of your grill and the temperature of the broccoli, this can take as little as four or five minutes of cooking.
5. Use a spatula or tongs to turn the broccoli, cook it for another one or two minutes, and return it to the large bowl.
6. Toss the grilled broccoli in the sauce, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap to let it stay warm until you are ready to serve it.