If you are someone who really likes to cook, it is inevitable that you will become at least a little bit obsessed with one or another celebrity chef. Ina Garten never ever fails to deliver a delicious recipe (that nearly always includes at least a stick of butter...."I wonder what her secret is?"), Mario Batali is the real deal, making interesting, authentic, Italian food. And Anthony Bourdain...even if you don't like his food, his writing (and personality) are dynamite.
After moving to New York City nearly 13 years ago, I started getting the NY Times delivered to my doorstep. I immediately fell in love and reading it became part of my daily ritual. It still is. When we first moved to New Jersey three years ago, we didn't get the newspaper delivered right away because we hadn't gotten around to notifying them of our changed address. I was so homesick for The City in those first few weeks, and I remember sitting down with it for the first time in my new home and feeling that homesickness ease just a bit.
I love nearly everything about that newspaper. The weekend edition is fantastic, but Wednesday is the day I look forward to the most because that is when the "Food" section is published. There are several weekly columns that run in that section, but my favorite by far is the one written by Melissa Clark. Although she is not quite as famous as Batali, Bourdain, or Garten, she is just as good, maybe better. Her new cookbooks is called "Dinner: Changing the Game." The next 50 things I make and post about on this blog will be from this cookbook: it is that good.
What I love about Melissa Clark, and this book in particular, is that she is not about complicated food. In fact, her recipes sometimes seem so basic you wonder if they can be that good. But, they are. Her strength lies in the small details that you might consider leaving out: "a splash of sherry vinegar? a Tbs. of black sesame seeds? a sprinkle of parmesan? Is that really necessary?" Yes, it is. It makes all the difference. I have learned, if Melissa Clark tells you to do something, just do it.
I also love that she seeks to redefine dinner. I often get stuck in the rut of meat, a starch, a vegetable. She reminds us that it doesn't have to be that way. Dinner can be a delicious soup with homemade bread, a salad with sides, a sheet pan of proteins and vegetables. This one, although seemingly one-note, is made filling and sustaining with rich broth, potatoes, some spice, and lemon.
- 8 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 heads broccoli, separated into small florets, stems peeled and diced.
- 2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 large Spanish onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. red chile flakes
- 8 ounces potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 lemon
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
- Flaky sea salt, for serving.
- In a large soup pot, heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil over high heat. Add about a third of the broccoli, just so that it covers the bottom of the pan without crowding.
- Cook broccoli without touching it until it is dark brown on one side (3-4 minutes). Be careful not to burn and remove to large bowl. Repeat with remaining broccoli, adding an additional Tbs. of oil when necessary. Once all broccoli has been cooked, sprinkle with salt.
- Reduce heat to medium low. Add butter and once melted, add the onion, garlic, pepper, chili flakes, and 1/2 tsp. of the salt. Cook the onion-garlic mixture until the onions are soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Then add potatoes, 4 cups of chicken stock, and the remaining teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just tender, making sure to stir occasionally so potatoes cook evenly.
- Add broccoli back to pot and cook until just tender (5 to 10 minutes).
- Stir the lemon zest into the soup. You can use a blender or immersion blender to pulverize some or all of soup, or leave rustic and chunky (my preference).
- Stir in lemon juice, and finish with grated cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and black pepper and salt to taste.