Charred broccolini is my most trusted side dish. I love to serve it hot from the oven – or BBQ in summer – or at room temperature with salty cheese (like feta or pecorino) and a generous sprinkle of toasted seeds. Turn it into a meal by adding cooked brown lentils.
And if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, blitz it into a pesto. Or make Julia Turshen’s amazing broccoli fritters. Keep reading for all the charred broccolini tips and tricks, or skip straight to the recipe if you are ready to make charred broccolini with preserved lemon and caper dressing.
Praise for Julia Turshen’s Now & Again
There are some recipes you just can’t stop making once you try them. Julia Turshen’s “Charred broccoli with capers and lemon” from Now & Again is one of them. Through repeated cooking, it eventually transformed into this charred broccolini with preserved lemon dish that I serve straight from the wood-fired grill in summer.
The entire cookbook speaks to me on so many levels. It is filled with delicious recipes, inspired menus and endless ideas for reinventing leftovers. I consider myself a leftovers whizz, but this book opens up a whole new world of leftover ideas beyond cheesy casseroles – admittedly a favourite I gravitate towards. May this blog post give you enough new ideas to reinvent your leftovers and go for that double batch of charred broccolini.
I include instructions to char the broccolini in the oven, on the stovetop or over hot coals.
What is broccolini?
While it may look like baby broccoli, broccolini is a hybrid vegetable. It’s a cross between gai lan (also known as Chinese kale or Chinese broccoli) and good old broccoli. Broccolini goes by different trademarked brands. So, depending on your region, you may also know them as Tenderstem broccoli, Bimi broccoli or simply leafy-stemmed broccoli.
Can I use normal (calabrese) broccoli in this recipe?
Charred broccolini is my favourite, but you can definitely use broccoli too. Just keep in mind that the thicker stems take longer to cook through. I include instructions for charring both broccolini and broccoli in the next section.
You can also use Romanesco broccoli (or even cauliflower) florets. The dressing works spectacularly with either.
If you use frozen broccoli, roast the broccoli straight from frozen. Learn how to cook frozen broccoli for the ultimate weeknight convenience. I always have a bag of frozen broccoli for any healthy side dish emergency.
Learn how to cook frozen broccoli. And see the best way to freeze broccoli at home (you can freeze broccolini the same way).
How to char broccolini (or broccoli)
Charred broccolini is a delicious side no matter the season. In the summertime, I love to char broccolini over hot coals. Fine weather is the only excuse I need to get a fire going – with a chilled glass of white wine in hand, of course. On cooler days – or when I prepare a double portion – I turn to the oven. And when temperatures are soaring, I opt for the stovetop method. The stovetop method also works best for small batches of broccolini.
Oven charred broccolini
Place a large baking tray (sheet pan) in the oven and preheat it to 230 °C (or 440 °F). Meanwhile, put the broccolini (or broccoli) in a large mixing bowl, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss everything well to combine.
When the oven is at temperature, remove the preheated baking tray and arrange the broccolini/broccoli evenly in the tray.
Roast the broccolini until cooked through – turning or stirring after 10 minutes or whenever the charring looks uneven. You want tender broccolini stems with nice crispy, charred edges. It takes 15 to 20 minutes for broccolini and up to 30 minutes for broccoli to reach the perfect tenderness and char in my oven. Turn down the temperature if your broccoli is charring too quickly without softening.
Don’t overcrowd the baking tray if you make a double batch. Opt for two baking trays instead.
Stovetop charred broccolini
Cook the broccolini in a pan of lightly salted simmering water for 3 mins until just tender (keep cooking broccoli florets up to 5 minutes). Drain the cooked broccolini and transfer it to a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. Don’t skip this part, or your broccolini will end up overcooked, looking wilted and sad. Dry the broccolini well and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Place a large skillet on high heat. Once piping hot, add the broccolini to char for 2 to 3 minutes, moving them around for an even char. Avoid overcrowding your pan. Rather char the broccolini in two batches if your pan is not big enough. Overcrowding the pan will encourage the broccolini to steam instead of char. Give normal broccoli the same treatment.
Broccolini charred over coals
In South Africa, you don’t need an excuse to braai (a traditional BBQ, typically wood-fired if you live in Cape Town as I do). But braaiing veggies is often overlooked. And Tenderstem broccoli is not the only suitable braai veg. Char large wedges of cabbage, thickly sliced cauliflower and even brussels sprouts (in a heat-resistant wire basket). They all work well with the preserved lemon dressing.
Set a grid about 10 cm over hot coals and add your lightly oiled and salted broccolini. Use a tong to turn it regularly until the veggies reach your perfect char. Place the charred veg in a heatproof bowl with the marinade and toss to coat.
I like my braai veggies still crunchy, so I don’t worry about undercooking the broccolini. However, if you use broccoli, you may want them to soften more after charring. Simply cover the heatproof bowl with a lid or overturned plate. It will continue to soften as they steam and will end up less crispy, but we are all about the charred flavour here.
Serve the broccolini straight from the fire, dressed while piping hot and enjoyed in small plates while standing around the fire as the braaier tends to the next course. Or set it aside to cool down and serve at room temperature with the sit-down dinner.
The preserved lemon and caper dressing
This recipe is all about the broccoli marinade. For a citrus lover like myself, preserved lemons are a no-brainer. They have a supercharged lemon flavour. And the bonus is that they are so easy to make at home!
Homemade preserved lemons need a minimum of four weeks before you can start to use them. Luckily, I found an easy stovetop cheat’s preserved lemon recipe for a preserved lemon substitute that’s ready in less than 30 minutes.
To make the dressing combine olive oil, roughly chopped capers and preserved lemon skins, a minced garlic clove, fresh lemon juice, salt and chopped parsley in a bowl large enough to hold the charred broccolini. The key is to dress the charred veggies while warm for the flavours to mingle.
You can swop the charred broccolini for calabrese broccoli, cauliflower or romanesco broccoli. But the dressing also works well beyond charred veggies. Use it as a salad dressing, serve it alongside seafood, or simply drizzle over a cream cheese bagel. It’s certainly worth making double.
This charred broccoli with preserved lemon and caper recipe is a delicious side, but it is also ripe for reinvention.
Turn the broccolini side dish into a meal
Toothsome brown lentils are the perfect companions for charred broccolini. You can also opt for chickpeas, white beans, or both if you want to bulk up the salad.
Cook ½ a cup of dry brown lentils (or use 1 cup of pre-cooked/tinned lentils) until just tender, retaining a bit of a bite.
After charring, roughly chop the broccolini and add it to the marinade as instructed in the recipe – taking care to leave a few florets intact for presentation if you want.
Add the cooked and drained lentils to the dressed broccolini and combine.
Finally, sprinkle with feta, toasted seeds and the reserved parsley.
Leftover charred broccolini ideas
I love to make a double batch of the charred broccolini with preserved lemon and caper dressing, just for the leftover reinvention opportunities. Sometimes I skip serving it as a side dish altogether and head straight for pesto station.
These leftover recipes work well with or without the feta and toasted seeds, but not with the lentils suggested above.
Julia Turshen’s leftover broccoli(ni) fritters
Finely chop the leftover broccolini, preserved lemons and capers.
For every cup of leftover veggies, whisk together 1 egg, 1/2 cup (60 grams) flour, 2 tablespoons water, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and a pinch of salt.
Stir the chopped broccolini and dressing into the batter.
Place a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add a splash of cooking oil or butter and swirl around the pan. Working in batches, drop the batter into the skillet. Use roughly one heaped tablespoon of batter per fritter. Cook until bubbles appear on top, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook for another minute or until browned on the underside. Wipe the skillet clean between batches and repeat the process with fresh oil or butter.
Serve the fritters with some tahini yoghurt or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Leftover Broccolini & Preserved Lemon Pesto
Turn any leftover charred broccolini with preserved lemon and capers into a delicious broccoli pesto. Use the pesto as a dip, spread it on toasted bread, whisk it into eggs for a green omelette, or stir through cooked pasta or grains. It’s worth making the broccoli just for the pesto. If you added feta, pick out any large chunks and set them aside to crumble and stir through the pesto at the end.
- Roughly chop the charred broccolini.
- For every two cups of leftover broccolini, add half a cup of toasted sunflower seeds (or almonds), a tablespoon preserved lemon liquid (or freshly squeezed lemon juice), and a teaspoon of salt.
- Blitz everything in a food processor. Taste and add more salt or preserved lemon to taste.
- Stir through 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil – or more if the mixture still looks dry.
I first saw a recipe for broccoli toast in One Pot, Plan, Planet by Anna Jones. She reckons we’ve reached peak avocado on toast. And while there is no end to my appreciation for avo toast, I agree that there is enough space for broccoli toasts to share the green toast spotlight. Anna’s toast is topped with tahini yoghurt, za’atar and grilled leafy-stemmed broccoli. My version below uses the leftover charred broccolini turned pesto. But if you can’t be bothered to wash the food processor to make pesto, go ahead and pop the chopped broccolini straight onto the toast.
Charred Broccolini & Preserved Lemon Pesto on Toast
- Toast your sliced bread of choice – I prefer sourdough toasted in a griddle pan.
- Spread liberally with labneh (or cream cheese).
- Top with the leftover broccolini pesto and a few extra sunflower seeds for crunch. Your broccolini toasts are ready to enjoy!
- But if you feel like having a treat – albeit a green one – grate some strong cheddar over the pesto, and place the toasts under a hot grill for 5 to 10 minutes for the cheese to melt.
Charred broccolini with preserved lemon and capers is a firm favourite in my house. I make double just for the leftover reinvention promise it holds. Go ahead, reinvent your own version and let me know how much you loved it!
Charred Broccolini with Preserved Lemon & Caper Dressing
- 1 large baking tray (or sheet pan)
- 450 grams (1 pound) broccolini (tenderstem broccoli), or normal broccoli cut into florets
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons (20 grams) capers, drained, rinsed, and roughly chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons (30 grams) preserved lemon skins*, roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons (15 grams) parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- 100 grams feta (optional)
- 3 tablespoons toasted seeds optional)
- Place a baking tray in the oven and preheat it to 230 °C (or 440 °F).
- Meanwhile, put the broccolini (or broccoli) in a large mixing bowl, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss everything well to combine.
- When the oven is at temperature, remove the preheated baking tray and arrange the broccolini/broccoli evenly in the tray. Reserve the mixing bowl for the marinade.
- Roast the broccoli until cooked with crispy, charred edges – turning or stirring after 10 minutes. It takes 15 to 20 minutes for broccolini and up to 30 minutes for broccoli to reach the perfect tenderness and char in my oven.
- While the broccoli roasts, place the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the reserved mixing bowl. Add the capers, preserved lemon, garlic, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and most of the chopped parsley. Give the marinade a quick stir.
- As soon as the broccolini is done cooking, place the just-tender, charred broccolini in the marinade while hot – even if you plan on serving the dish cooled – and toss to combine.
- Arrange the tenderstem broccoli (or broccoli florets) on a serving plate. Top it with the remaining parsley, feta and toasted seeds (if using), and serve straight away. Alternatively, if you prefer a room temperature salad, allow the broccoli to cool down before topping it with the feta and toasted seeds.
- Learn how to make preserved lemons at home, or try this easy preserved lemon substitute.
- I use a conventional oven setting (non-fan). You may need to adjust the oven temperature to suit your type of oven or preferred setting.
- When I serve the broccoli as a warm side, I do so straight away without the cheese and toasted seeds. However, when I plate it cooled down as a salad, I prefer to add salty cheese and toasted seeds. Why not try it both ways?
- Any salty cheese (or vegan substitute) works well here, but the salad is delicious without it if you want to keep it vegan – or if you have other cheesy dishes on your menu. Try feta (cow, goat or sheep), pecorino or fried halloumi – or any salty vegan cheese substitute.
- See the full blog post for serving suggestions and leftover ideas!
MADE THIS RECIPE?
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Why not try another broccoli recipe?
Made this today as a side for some roast swede with chilli maple butter topped with crumbled feta. Heavenly, will definitely be making again!
I am so happy you enjoyed it! ❤️ And your roast swede with chilli maple butter & feta sounds amazing!
Made this for dinner with Moroccan Fish Tangine, and it was absolutely fantastic. The whole family loved it. Will definitely make again.
I am thrilled to hear that the whole family enjoyed it! And your Moroccan fish tagine sounds like the perfect pairing. Super yum!
Thank you for popping in!