I always thought that broccolini was simply baby broccoli that didn’t reach adult-size. It made sense to me—especially since the broccoli seeds that I planted in my garden quickly grew spindly rather than squat. To my surprise, that spindly broccoli was incredibly sweet.
So, when my supermarket started carrying a vegetable that not only looked like the broccoli I grew but was actually labeled “baby broccoli”, I started thinking of delicious ways of using it.
Turns out, broccolini is not quite broccoli. It’s a cross between broccoli and a Chinese kale called kai-lan (yes, like the cartoon!). To me, it’s not actually as sweet as the crazy stuff I grew, but it’s close! And it’s delicious in its own right. I like it blanched and made into a salad.
Broccolini tends to be sold in small bunches. Each bunch makes about two to three servings of this salad. You can always buy two bunches and double the other ingredients.
1 bunch broccolini, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into thirds (I left it uncut for presentation purposes, but definitely cut it--much easier to eat!)
1 Minneola tangelo (what I used) or 1 tangerine, clementine or small orange
1 small sweet red pepper or ½ small red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
½ small shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
½ tsp agave nectar
½ heaping tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp toasted sesame oil (and more for garnish if you like)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp ground ginger
Salt & pepper to taste
1 TBS olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Fill a large bowl with cold water and one dozen ice cubes. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a generous pinch of salt. Add the broccolini and press down into the water with a wooden spoon so it is submerged. Cook for 2 minutes.
Remove the broccolini immediately from the hot water and place into the ice water. This will stop the cooking and retain the beautiful color.
After a few minutes, remove the broccolini from the ice water. Drain well and pat dry with a paper towel or lint-free kitchen towel. Set aside.
Peel the Minneola. Remove as much of the thick membrane as possible and discard. Cut the Minneola in half width-wise. Squeeze the juice from one half into a large mixing bowl. You should have about 2 tablespoons of juice. Discard the pulp or reserve it for another use (like a smoothie). Carefully pull apart the segments from the other half of the fruit and set aside. If you’re using a citrus other than a Minneola that has seeds, remove the seeds from the segments and discard.
To the juice in the bowl, add the agave nectar, mustard, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, ground ginger, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk together. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking the entire time. Add the sliced shallots and sweet red pepper to the bowl and coat with the dressing. Marinate for 5 minutes.
Add the blanched broccolini and citrus segments to the dressing. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the vegetables. Gently fold the dressing, peppers, and shallots up from the bottom of the bowl to completely coat the broccolini and citrus. Taste for salt and pepper and add if necessary.
Don’t Freak Out!
1) You can substitute honey for the agave nectar.
2) Substitute ½ of a large head of broccoli for the broccolini. Clean, cut into florets, blanch, and continue with the rest of the recipe. I don’t recommend using frozen broccoli that’s been defrosted—it’ll be too mushy.
3) Substitute thinly sliced onions or scallions for the shallots.
4) Toasted sesame oil can overpower a dish. However, I do like to garnish the top of the finished salad with an additional tiny drop or two. Add or don’t, according to your tastes.
5) Don’t have 2 tablespoons of citrus juice? Make up the difference with white balsamic, white wine, champagne, or sherry vinegar.
6) When I make a salad, I like to make the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, fold it up onto the salad, and then remove it with tongs to a serving bowl or platter. Plus, if you want to add more dressing, there is usually some left in the bottom of the bowl. However, if you want to make the dressing in a small bowl (or shake it in a covered jar) and then pour it over the top, go ahead. It’s all just a matter of preference!