Sprouting broccoli is the vegetable you never knew you needed in your life. A cross between Broccoli and the Chinese Broccoli, Gai Lan; it’s the perfect marriage of both. You get tiny florets, tender stems and leaves but none of the bitterness associated with Broccoli Rabe. It holds up great in a quick saute with shitake mushrooms and soy or try it in this simple dried white bean stew for a more Italian-leaning recipe. Dried beans are a necessary staple for your pantry as they quickly adapt to many vegetables and preparations throughout the season…tender swiss chard in the spring or maybe some hearty kale in the fall when the weather gets cooler . This recipe makes a satisfying side dish to a grilled pork chop or enjoy it on its own with some toasted focaccia.
Green garlic is one of my favorite stars of the Spring harvest…mild with a bright, garlicky flavor that has the ability to shine without being overpowering. It does a beautiful job at bringing together both the dried Maine Sunset beans (from Plowshare Farm’s 2019 harvest) and the Sprouting Broccoli. All you need are some fresh herbs and a little planning to make this simple side dish. Remember, if you are using dried beans, you will need to soak them overnight in cold water.
6 ounces Sprouting Broccoli
1 cup Dried white beans
8 cups Stock or water
1 each Dried hot pepper, seeds removed
3 sprigs Thyme
3 sprigs Oregano
4 sprigs Rosemary
1 each Bay leave
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2-3 stalks Green Garlic
½ teaspoon Fennel seed, toasted & ground
Pinch Red pepper flakes
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 teaspoons White Wine Vinegar
1. Soak your dried beans in 4 cups of cold water overnight on your kitchen counter.
2. The next day, drain your beans and place in a pot. Add your water or stock and the dried hot pepper. Make an herb bundle with the fresh herbs (reserving 1 sprig of rosemary for later) along with the dark green top of the garlic. Tie everything together with string and add to the pot. Bring the beans to a boil and then turn down to a lazy simmer. Do not season the beans with salt. We will do that once they are cooked. The salt will toughen up the skins of the beans.
3. Simmer your beans for somewhere between 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the age of your beans. The older the beans are the longer it will take them to cook. Add more water if needed as you do not want the beans to dry out. Taste your beans often and once they are tender, dump the contents of the pot into a shallow pan. Add 2 t. of salt and cool to room temperature. Make sure to keep the beans submerged in their liquid.
4. While the beans are cooking, prepare your Sprouting Broccoli. Bring a large pot of water to boil to blanch the broccoli. Add 3 good pinches of salt to your water and separately prepare an ice bath. Once the water is boiling, add your broccoli to the pot and blanch quickly for 30 seconds. Immediately remove the broccoli to the ice bath to cool for 5 minutes. Once the broccoli is cool, drain on a clean kitchen towel.
5. Slice the bottom two-thirds of your green garlic into rounds. You are looking for about 1 cup of sliced garlic. Remove the rosemary leaves from the remaining sprig.
6. In a medium sized pot, warm the ¼ cup of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the rosemary leaves and fry for 1 minute. Add the sliced green garlic and 2 pinches of salt. Saute garlic over a medium heat until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add your toasted fennel seed and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute longer until spices are aromatic.
7. Add blanched broccoli to the pot and coat in the aromatic garlic oil. Drain off the cooked beans (reserving bean liquid) and add to the broccoli. Season vegetables with salt to taste and add a little bit of the reserved bean liquid to the pot to keep it from drying out. Once vegetables are hot, remove from the heat and add your vinegar, depending on your preference. Taste again for salt.
8. Place the Broccoli and Beans into a large bowl and drizzle with a healthy amount of olive oil and a fresh grinding of black pepper.
Michael Joyce is a Philly-based chef and local food advocate. Spending his career in kitchens devoted to seasonality and sustainability such as Blue Hill, Bolete Restaurant and most recently Barbuzzo. He believes that cooking through the seasons and as close to the source as possible, is not only satisfying and inspiring, but critical to the health of our local communities.