Monday, December 12, 2011

Broccoli and raisins

Anyone who's been to as many Wisconsin potlucks at rented out bowling alleys as I knows that broccoli and raisins are a classic combination. Mixed with Miracle Whip and Bacon Bits, the pairing perhaps loses some of the culinary appeal of its Sicilian roots, but for me it's still something quite magical. One need do nothing more than eat a piece of broccoli with a couple of golden raisins out of the box to see just how well these two ingredients complement one another.

My understanding is that in Sicily there are countless ways in which broccoli and raisins are used together, many of which turn into sauces for pasta. Pasta is what I do, and my favorite method is a simple one: puree the pair with roasted walnuts, cheese and olive oil to make a pesto, then serve it over long, thick pasta. In the most recent case I used pici, which I love for its substantial chew and long cooking time, which enables me to start it before putting my daughter to bed and still have time to read The Cat in The Hat and sing 2 lullabies before it's done.




The walnuts, oil and cheese make this a rich dish. Sometimes I just leave that alone, but this time I topped it with some homestyle* breadcrumbs that I fried with lemon zest to give a little acid balance. I also emboldened the richness with a dollop of creamy ricotta.

I cook mostly vegetarian food at home, and this is one of my absolute favorite rib-sticking, wintertime home cooked dishes.


*chopped as best I could by hand so as not to let the noise of a food processor wake the little one.