Food & Drink

Broccoli is a fresh chance to stray from tradition

Broccoli with fried shallots and olives veers away from the traditional side dishes of Thanksgiving.
Broccoli with fried shallots and olives veers away from the traditional side dishes of Thanksgiving. New York Times

Green bean casserole never really found a place on my family’s table.

None of us wanted to veer too far from the traditional holiday triumvirate – turkey, stuffing, gravy – and so the green vegetable dish was our chance to go wild. We stir-fried green beans with Sichuan peppercorns; sautéed kale with garlic, cumin and red-pepper flakes; roasted Brussels sprouts with curry leaves and mustard seeds.

The green vegetable was also the first Thanksgiving dish I really put my stamp on. This was when I was in high school. While my father was busy laboring over the turkey and as my mother and sister set the table, I would quietly slice garlic or grind spices, finishing the prep but not turning on the heat until everyone else was ambling to the table. As much as I embrace cooking in advance, green vegetables benefit most from last-minute attention.

The key is to pick something that cooks quickly, and for that, this broccoli fits in perfectly. I can blanch it the day before, so it just needs the briefest stint in a hot pan, along with some olives and garlic. I love to garnish the vegetables with crisp fried shallots; those too can be made the day before.

cooking tips

You can cook the broccoli a day ahead. Keep it refrigerated, then bring it to room temperature before serving.

The fried shallots can also be made a day in advance. Store them in a paper towel-lined container or a jar with an airtight lid. If they wilt, pop them briefly in the oven to crisp them back up. Be sure to save the shallot-flavored oil to sauté the garlic and olives right before serving.

This dish also works with cauliflower.

Broccoli With Fried Shallots and Olives

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Total time: 25 minutes

2 1/2 pounds broccoli (about 2 bunches), stems peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, florets cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

4 shallots, sliced into rings

5 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped pitted olives, such as Kalamata, Niçoise or Picholine (a combination of black and green is nice)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, or to taste (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add broccoli and cook until just tender, 1 to 3 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.

Heat oil in a small pot over medium heat. In batches, so they don’t crowd the pot, fry shallots until light golden, 4 to 6 minutes, using a slotted spoon to transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate once they’ve cooked. Sprinkle the fried shallots with salt as you go. If the shallots start to brown too quickly, lower the heat.

Keep the oil in the pot, and carefully stir in garlic and olives. Cook until garlic starts to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Pour the hot oil, including garlic and olives, over the broccoli, then sprinkle with salt and taste. If you’d like it to be brighter, toss in the vinegar. Serve broccoli with fried shallots on top.