If you’ve been around the food circles in New York City, the name Jimmy Bradley is a familiar one. He’s a rock star. Bradley opened his iconic restaurant The Red Cat in 1999, and since then has been serving New Yorkers a straightforward, market-driven menu that aims to please. No foams, no dusts, no deconstructed dishes or immersion circulators. Just good, local, seasonal American food with a nudge from the Mediterranean. It’s a formula that has been going strong for 15 years.
About five years ago, though, Bradley was itching to do more than his one-page menu allowed. So he added a second menu — one focused on vegetables. Since then, he has served a five-course vegetable menu nightly. His roster of dishes includes Bibb Lettuce Salad with goat cheese, sunchokes, pears and roasted lemon vinaigrette, Swiss Chard and Ricotta Ravioli with parsley, brown butter crumble and pine nut sauce, and Red Hot Rapini with browned garlic and chili flakes. One of his newest and most-popular dishes, created by Chef Michael Cooperman, is this rustic Roasted Broccoli with almonds, red onion, Parmesan and broccoli puree.
“The broccoli dish is a perfect example of the type cuisine we serve at The Red Cat,” said Bradley. “As is our Zucchini with Almonds and Pecorino. We feel that less is more — we like to use few ingredients in a dish, but prepare them perfectly, to showcase and highlight the flavor of the ingredients. In this case, that ingredient is broccoli. We prepare it a few different ways (including raw) in order to highlight its varied flavors and textures.”
“We treat vegetables as the main protein and we work around it,” said Bradley. “There’s not enough fish in the ocean; too much meat is bad for you, so eat more vegetables!”
Yield: 4 servings
1 head broccoli
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 bunch parsley, picked and washed
1/4 cup canola oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 of a small red onion, sliced paper thin
1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Using a paring knife, separate broccoli into three piles: one with florets, one with leaves and one with stems.
Take the stems and peel them using a paring knife; remove all the fibrous peels and chop the peels so they will cook evenly.
Take the peeled stems and shave them using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, then soak them in ice-cold water with the broccoli leaves.
For the puree, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add broccoli peels and any scraps. Cook till very tender, then shock in ice water. Add garlic to boiling water and blanch for 1 minute, then add picked parsley. Cook for 30 seconds and shock in ice water.
Drain broccoli peels, garlic and parsley on a towel, then put in a blender and puree with 1/4 cup canola oil. When the puree is a smooth consistency, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the broccoli florets with extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper. Put them on a sheet tray flat so they cook evenly; cook for 8 to 12 minutes or till tender. Keep warm.
To finish the dish, gently heat up the puree in a small pot. Reserve warm. Spin the stems and leaves in a salad spinner till dry. Put in a mixing bowl with the red onion, almonds, Parmesan, juice of half a lemon and a splash of olive oil. Toss salad and season with salt and pepper.
To plate the dish, put puree on the bottom of a plate, arrange florets, then top with the salad of stems.
Andrea Strong is a freelance writer whose work has appeared everywhere from The New York Times to Edible Brooklyn. She’s probably best known as the creator of The Strong Buzz, her food blog about New York City restaurants. She lives in Queens with her two kids, her husband and her big appetite.