Sunday, January 24, 2010

broccoli with burrata, pine nuts, and warm anchovy vinaigrette- ish

I had a post all written up for you tonight. I was almost ready to publish it.
And then I made dinner. And I changed my mind. Because although you may not have known it, you were here tonight too. So I figured I better tell you about it, just to keep you up to speed on your whereabouts this evening.

I've been spending some time with a cookbook that I got out of the Library, Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques. A friend of mine had passed along this recipe from the book, and although she kindly typed it out in an email, I figured I should take a look at the source. It's a stunning book, a little manual that would become my handbook were I a wealthy childless Californian.
I am many things, but a wealthy childless Californian is certainly not one of them. Ah, well.

Suzanne Goin's book is packed with ingredients that I don't have, but it is so lovely that I stick with it anyway. So far as I can tell, many of her recipes are based on an excellent formula: good olive oil, butter, chiles, thyme, anchovies. I had my eye on this recipe for broccoli with burrata, pine nuts, and warm anchovy vinaigrette. Because I am not a wealthy childless Californian, by burrata I mean mozzarella, by broccoli I really mean broccolli and not broccolini or sprouting broccoli, and by any of the other ingredients I mean whatever you can muster. But I feel that this is the mark of a excellent cookbook- that even if I cannot make what is in it, I can be inspired enough to sally forth anyway. This book absolutely succeeds in this regard. I don't want you to think I have anything against wealthy childless Californians- I certainly don't. Who knows? Maybe Suzanne Goin is actually from New Jersey and has four children? If so, she puts on a very good show.

Joey and the girls went to a birthday party this afternoon, and I stayed home so that I could make this luscious sounding thing and photograph it while there was still some light coming through the windows. Of course, I got sidetracked with granola, and laundry, and pointless pantry organization. And that is how I found myself at 6:00, chopping anchovies, trying to convince Sadie and Joey to clean up the living room, running up and down the stairs and soaping up a very stubborn Rosie (who would not have anyone but Mama) in stages so as not to stay away from my toasting pine nuts for too long. I started this process quite grumpy, and I had the good sense to open up a bottle of wine. The phone was ringing, and Rosie was hollering and I was creating quite a mess.

As I poured myself another glass of wine, I went from grumpy, to amused, to actually laughing. I was ten minutes from the girls' bedtime, and I stopped measuring. I decided to put the whole thing over pasta, and before I knew it, ingredients were everywhere. I slipped into my bad habits of crowding counters, stacking cutting boards on top of cutting boards, and making a terrible ruckus. And although there were anchovies and shouting naked kids and it was already bedtime, I realized that you were there, and I felt okay.

People often tell me that they appreciate that I don't gloss over things, that I show a messy kitchen and crazy children. And I do, at least I try, but to be honest, I don't always show you how wild things truly get in those twenty minutes before dinner time.

But you know right? You know what it's like to try to cook something beautiful, even when what you really should be doing (if you had any sense, that is) is heating up a frozen lasagna from Costco? You've discarded the recipe because you only really have time to cut up one shallot, and who knows how many tablespoons it is, right? And as the storm kicks up, and you holler at your kids to set the damn table (okay, maybe you don't swear, I support you in that) I want you to know that I'm there too, just like you've been there for me, and I'm drinking your wine, and most of all, I'm laughing.

Because sometimes this is all just too much to take. It has got to be funny, or else we might just give up altogether. And when you finally get dinner on the table and your children march around the kitchen holding their noses saying that it smells like cat food and that dinner is Ew-mungous. (I don't make this stuff up!), we'll laugh together, okay?

Whatever happened before, I'll tell you right now that this dinner was fantastic. You should try it. Perhaps chaos was a vital ingredient, and I'm sure that you'll be able to add lots of that too.

James's Broccoli with Burrata, Pine Nuts, and Warm Anchovy Vinaigrette (or Pasta with Mozzarella, Broccoli and Anchovy Butter)

Adapted from Suzanne Goin and Terry Gelber, Sunday Suppers at Lucques

1 lb penne or pasta shape of your choice
1 lb broccoli, cut into florets
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons minced anchovy
1 arbol chile, sliced thinly
2 teaspoons minced garlic
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 medium shallot, sliced
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toast the pine nuts and the breadcrumbs on a tray for about 5 minutes, or until toasty.
Bring two large pots of heavily salted water to boil. In one pot, cook the pasta, in the other, blanch the broccoli for three minutes. Drain pasta and set aside. Drain broccoli and set out to cool.
In a small bowl, crush half of the pine nuts. Combine the crushed pine nuts with the whole pine nuts, the bread crumbs and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper
Heat olive oil and butter in a large sautee pan. Add the anchovy and cook, stirring, until the anchovy begins to dissolve, about 5 minutes. Add the chile, garlic, thyme, and lemon. Turn off the heat. Season with a pinch of salt. Allow to sit for a minute.
Turn on the heat again to medium. Add the shallots, broccoli, and pasta if your pot is large enough (otherwise toss with pasta in a bowl). Cook for a minute or so, coating the broccoli and pasta in the sauce. Taste for seasoning.
Pour into a large bowl and top with mozzarella.


  1. I miss being in your kitchen!! This sounds absolutely lovely. Yum!

  2. Oh my goodness, I really needed this post. If you substitute your dish for a first attempt at Massaman Curry and Matt's simultaneous baguette baking, we had a very similar night. Minus the wine. That probably would have prevented me from threatening to leave the kitchen. We always struggle with how to cook real and lovely food without stressing everyone the eff out when we're all tired and hungry at the end of the day. I refuse to succumb to the Costco lasagna.

  3. I really enjoyed sharing a glass of wine with you while you walked me through the chaos to this recipe, it looks wonderful and it does not smell anything like cat food ;-)
    Karen DD (from Unravelling)

  4. oh! we all feel so alone in the kitchen sometimes, peering out across the island (how fitting) and seeing our loved ones peering in, wondering why we like doing this so much if it stresses us out.....but when everyone is warm in their beds, i like to know that we are not full from costco lasagne. nope, not at all.

  5. Nuuuumy, A. broccoli is one of my all-time favorite foods- so i'm going to have to try this, although i must admit i'm a wee bit skeptical about the anchovyness. have you tried the 'Straw & Hay Fettuccine Tangle' from Swanson's book yet? I'm sure the way you ground the pinenuts would benefit from it- i'll try that tomorrow night. Cheers, sweetness.