This recipe is from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. It’s freaking delicious, and the small touches that Judy Rogers includes in her recipes really make a big difference. I recommend following the directions (which I copied almost word-for-word from the cookbook) as closely as possible. It’s worth it.
Note: I didn’t use anchovies, I substituted Pecorino Romano cheese for the breadcrumbs, I did some minced fennel bulb in addition to the fennel seeds and cut the amount of seeds in half, and I used black olives instead of green.
Recipe: For 4 to 5 servings
- About 1 cup fresh, soft bread crumbs (about 2 oz) made from crustless, slightly stale, chewy white peasant-style bread (optional)
- About 3/4 cup mild-tasting olive oil (I didn’t use this much…I probably used about half that much)
- About 12 oz broccoli, trimmed, with a few inches of stem intact
- About 12 oz cauliflower, leaves removed and stem end trimmed flush
- 1 generous tablespoon capers, rinsed, pressed dry between towels, and slightly chopped
- 1lb penne, spaghetti, orecchiette, fusilli, or medium shells
- 1 tbsp chopped salt-packed anchovy fillets (4 to 6 fillets) (I omitted these)
- 6 small garlic cloves, coarsely chopped (I used about 3)
- About 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly pounded in a mortar
- 4 to 8 pinches dried chili flakes
- 1 tbsp tightly packed, coarsely chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 4 to 5 tbsp coarsely chopped pitted green olives
If using bread crumbs, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Toss the breadcrumbs with 2 tsp olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, and bake for about 5 minutes, until golden. Keep the crumbs on the stove top until needed.
Slice the broccoli and cauliflower about 1/8-inch thick, and generally lengthwise. Most of the slices will break apart as you produce them, yielding a pile of smooth stem pieces, tiny green broccoli buds, little cauliflower crumbs, and a few delicate slabs with stem and flower both. Don’t worry if the slices are of uneven thickness; that will make for more textural variety.
Warm about 1/4 cup of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add most of the sliced broccoli and cauliflower, conveniently leaving the smallest bits behind on the cutting board for the moment. (They’ll burn if you add them too soon.) The oil should sizzle quietly. Swirl the pan, and leave the vegetables to cook until you see the edge bits browning, about 3 minutes (it took me way longer than 3 minutes to see this, but I used less oil ). Salt very lightly and toss or stir and fold gently.
Add a few more spoonfuls of oil and scrape the remaining bits of broccoli and cauliflower into the pan. Add the capers and swirl gently. (Mine was never so oily as to be able to swirl, so I just stirred a little) Continue cooking over medium heat until the edges begin to brown, another few minutes, then give the pan another stir or toss. Don’t stir too soon or too often, or you will get a homogeneous, steamy pile of vegetables instead of a crispy, chewy one. Most of the capers and vegetable crumbs will shrink into crispy confetti-like bits.
Meanwhile, drop the pasta into 6 quarts of rapidly boiling water seasoned with a scant 2 tablespoons of salt (a little more if using kosher salt). Stir, and cook al dente. Set a wide bowl or platter on the stove top, or in the still-warm oven if you made breadcrumbs, to heat.
Once the mass of broccoli and cauliflower has shrunken by about one third and is largely tender, reduce the heat, add another few spoonfuls of oil, and scatter the chopped anchovy, garlic, fennel, and chili over all. Give the vegetables a stir or toss to distribute. Cook for another few minutes, then add the parsley and olives. Taste – Every flavor should be clamoring for dominance. Adjust as needed.
Toss with the well-drained pasta and garnish with the warm, toasted bread crumbs, if desired (I used cheese).