Our recent onslaught of wet, cool weather has my garden dragging its feet. Strawberries have yet to ripen, and recently sprouted snap beans look like they won’t survive another week. The crop that’s loving life is broccoli. I’ve already harvested the first dense little heads, with stalks so tender I sliced them raw onto salads. I’m reserving the next round for the grill.
Although I started grilling asparagus years ago, it took me a while to set broccoli over the coals. It’s not an obvious pairing, especially if you’re buying giant heads at the grocery store, but it’s a delicious one. When cooked just right, broccoli picks up a lightly charred flavor but remains crisp and crunchy at its core.
The trick is to cut the head so that each floret has a long stem and stalk that you can lay crosswise over the grill grate and grasp with tongs to turn. Broccolini, with its naturally long, thin stalks, cooks in the same way but likely for less time. If you’re still worried about dropping the broccoli through the grate, use a grilling tray or basket.
For the simplest side, grill the broccoli and sprinkle it with some smoked sea salt and perhaps a squeeze of fresh lemon. I like to pair it with the sweetness of an orange caramelized on the grill and the robust flavor of sesame oil and seeds. At home, I zest the orange first and toast the sesame seeds for a couple of minutes in the toaster oven. When picnicking or grilling aboard the sailboat, I skip the zesting and sprinkle on raw seeds.
Orange-Kissed Grilled Broccoli
1-1/2 pounds broccoli
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small orange
1⁄2 teaspoon sesame oil, or to taste
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Remove any tough stalk end from the broccoli and add it to your compost. Cut the broccoli head into sections, so that each floret has a long attached section of stem and stalk that’s about the width of your index finger. In a shallow pan, toss the sections in the olive oil. Zest the orange, if desired, and then cut off the stem end just until you start to see the flesh. Continue cutting the orange into about 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Lay the broccoli sections directly on a hot grill so that they run across the bars, along with the orange slices. Flip the orange slices after about three minutes, and then continue grilling another minute or so; set aside. Grill the broccoli for eight to ten minutes, turning for even cooking, until the stalks are tender-crisp and the florets are lightly charred.
Transfer the broccoli and orange to a serving dish, cutting the orange slices in halves or quarters if desired. Drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with toasted or untoasted sesame seeds and any orange zest.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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