Grilled broccolini with lemon-parmesan breadcrumbs recipe

Every food magazine seems to be offering an entire grilling issue this month and for good reason.  In most parts of the country, summer is “the” season for outdoor cooking and grilling is an easy and tasty way to prepare a wide variety of foods we love.  If you’ve been hanging out at this site for a bit, you probably know that I’m not so fond of grilling animal protein too often since it can be carcinogenic.  Since this is not the case for other foods, I will, however, grill just about anything else from vegetables and fruit to potatoes and pizzas.

Although many of my students ask me for new ways to prepare chicken and fish, I tend to keep the animal protein simple and focus on interesting ways to cook my favorite food group, vegetables.  And I am always on the lookout for interesting, new vegetables to cook.  Enter broccolini!  I had never heard of broccolini until probably six or seven years ago, although it has been around since about 1998.  It is sometimes referred to as “Baby Broccoli,” “Chinese Kale” or the very appetizing name “Aspiration” (Who in the world came up with that one?  Certainly no one with picky kids.)  Broccolini is technically a hybrid between regular broccoli and Chinese kale, but it has a more tender stem and sweeter flavor than both.  Some people think it tastes like a cross between asparagus and broccoli and that seems pretty accurate to me.  However you call it, we love, love, love it!

Broccolini and all its cruciferous cousins are vegetables you want to include regularly in the meal rotation since they are nutritional powerhouses with lots of anti-cancer compounds.  We eat a lot of broccolini and broccoli, so I am all about mixing it up a bit so we don’t get bored with the same old, same old.  Broccolini is just made for the grill.  Its tender stems cook as quickly as asparagus do and the grill adds a fabulous charred flavor to the florets.  Normal broccoli tastes fabulous on the grill too, but you have to slice the thick stems in order for it to cook properly and then it looks a little awkward.

This is hardly a recipe and at its simplest you just coat the broccolini in olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and grill few minutes on each side.  The only trick is to avoid burning the florets which is possible if you just stay at the grill the whole time and don’t leave to check your email.  Done.  This is super easy for weeknights and cool enough to serve to your foodie friends.  If a simply grilled vegetable isn’t sophisticated enough for you, you can brush the cut side of a couple lemons with olive oil and grill them cut-side down for a few minutes to squeeze on the broccolini with or without a dusting of Parmesan cheese.  Or, make these ridiculously addictive Lemon-Parmesan Breadcrumbs which are so good on these broccolini as well as grilled asparagus, pasta, roasted cherry tomatoes and just about a hundred other things.  I have successfully used many different gluten-free breads to make them, used Pecorino (sheep cheese) instead of Parmesan (cow), and eliminated the cheese altogether.  I’ve heard the saying, “you can’t make everyone happy.”  I’m not so sure about that!

Grilled Broccolini with Lemon-Parmesan Breadcrumbs
Serves: 6
  • 2 bunches broccolini, washed, dried, dry ends trimmed (about 1 pound)
  • Unrefined olive oil for drizzling the broccolini + 2 Tablespoons
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • A few slices of fresh bread or a roll, but nothing too “flavored,” hard crusts removed
  • 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • Zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
  1. Preheat a grill over medium heat. Too hot and the florets will burn. Not hot enough and you won’t get a char.
  2. Drizzle the broccolini with oil and toss with your hands until they’re evenly coated. (I put them on a sheet pan.) Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Make the breadcrumbs: cut the bread into cubes and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process into crumbs. Measure 1 cup of crumbs.
  4. In a small bowl, combine crumbs with Parmesan, lemon zest and a pinch of salt.
  5. Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the breadcrumb mixture and the garlic. Toast the breadcrumbs, stirring frequently until they start to turn golden brown, like toast. Carefully taste the breadcrumbs to make sure they’re crunchy, but don’t burn your mouth doing it. When they’re done, immediately transfer to a bowl, otherwise they’ll burn sitting in the pan. Remove garlic and discard.
  6. Place broccolini on the grill and cook until tender, but slightly charred, about 3 minutes. Flip over and cook the other side another 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the broccolini. Place on a platter and scatter the breadcrumbs on top or serve separately.
You can skip the breadcrumbs and serve instead with lemon wedges and/or shaved or grated Parmesan.

Spinach and feta strata

You know I’m a fan of the do-ahead breakfast for busy (and early) weekday mornings.  But holidays and weekend brunches are also the perfect time to prepare a fabulous breakfast the night before.  On Christmas morning, the kids love to come down in their pj’s and see what Santa left for them and I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen missing out on all the “oohs” and “ahhs.”  It’s also a great feeling to be able to relax after a late night of Christmas Eve revelry and still put a hot breakfast on the table for everyone.  Breakfast strata to the rescue!

A strata is technically a layered casserole, which mine is not since I just mix everything together in a bowl and pour it into a casserole dish.  This recipe is more of a savory bread pudding to which I add lots of spinach and in the summertime, ripe tomatoes.  In my quest for efficiency in the kitchen, I love stratas for using up stale bread and leftover vegetables from last night’s dinner.  In these photos I used a multi-seeded bread, which is not the norm for me, but we loved it.  Usually I buy a whole spelt bread from Le Pain Quotidien or a rustic whole grain bread from Whole Foods.  As for vegetables, you can add anything you would put in a frittata.  No spinach?  No problem!  Take those roasted or sauteed vegetables from last night and add them here.   I’ve used broccoli, cauliflower, every leafy green there is, mushrooms, zucchini and cherry tomatoes.  A couple of pieces of cooked turkey bacon or sausage links sitting in the fridge?  They’re welcome in this strata.

I’ve made a gluten-free strata with gluten-free bread and I’ve also made it dairy-free with hemp milk and a cashew-based cheese.  Sadly, I haven’t figured out a substitute for the eggs for those with egg allergies.  Don’t be afraid to freeze this, either.  Provided you freeze the strata well-wrapped, it will taste exactly the same.  We had about 50 people over for brunch the morning after my daughter’s bat mitzvah, and I had made and frozen several stratas 2 weeks earlier.  It was such a gift to myself to just pop them in the oven the morning of and not to have to cook, especially since I couldn’t walk from dancing all night.  So whether you’ve been “partying” at the shopping mall for the last few weeks or you’re just cooked out, give yourself and your loved ones this one last gift.

Merry Christmas to all of you celebrating!

Spinach and Feta Strata
Serves: 8 or you can make 16 mini-stratas in a muffin tin or ramekins
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk or plain, unsweetened hemp milk
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 large tomatoes (when in season), seeded (if desired) and diced
  • 8 cups of whole wheat, spelt or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used Whole Foods' "Seeduction" bread here)
  • Butter or olive oil for greasing baking dish
  1. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, a few more minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, sea salt and pepper. Stir in the cheeses, tomato (if using), bread and spinach-onion mixture.
  3. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 –inch baking dish and pour the strata mixture into the dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover baking dish and bake for 45-55 minutes or until egg mixture is set and top is golden brown.
Can be frozen if wrapped tightly. Thaw in the refrigerator before baking. I’ve done it and you can’t tell at all that it’s been frozen.

MINI-STRATAS: grease 16 individual ramekins or muffin tins. First layer bread, then vegetables and cheese. Last, pour beaten eggs mixed with milk, salt and pepper on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes.