Thursday, December 6, 2012

Broccoli with Ricotta Salata: Fall crush

My first celebrity crush (aside from Zach Morris on "Saved by the Bell") was Keanu Reeves.

I was in the 5th grade at the time, sporting bangs, an ill-advised perm and a wardrobe composed explicitly of hoodies and colored jeans from the Limited Too. While I was barely removed from my "girls rule, boys drool" stage, as soon as I saw Keanu come on screen with his buzzcut and tight white t-shirt in the movie Speed, I was mesmerized.

There was something about his swagger and the confident way he took charge of the situation (and bus) that rendered me completely silent as I watched the screen, riveted by his commanding presence. And, well, body armor.

I was, of course, totally mortified by my reaction and told no one, not even my best friends at the time, Katie and Shana, who I was convinced would think I was even more of an awkward weirdo for liking him. It didn't occur to me that other people might actually find him attractive too -- that I wasn't the only girl in the universe who had a thing for tall, dark and handsome men. It seemed to me like another one of my bizarre predilections. Like my affinity for white bread Nacho Cheese Doritos sandwiches, which were, incidentally just as lacking in substance as Mr. Reeves.

But still... delicious.

A few months after my initial encounter with Speed (I say this because there were multiple encounters), I was sprawled out on Katie's living room floor playing "Truth or Dare" with her and Shana like most pre-teens across America who've grown out of the Barbie stage. We were alternating through the usual dares ("I dare you to prank call your brother") and truth questions ("What's the worst thing you've ever done?"), when I was charged with the ubiquitous, "Who do you like?"

I immediately blushed a fierce shade of red (likely the same color of my Limited Too jeans), and stammered, "No one!"

My two friends looked at each other in disbelief, their eyes gleaming with what I had come to recognize as the physical manifestation of a shared joke that was likely at my expense. Or hair's expense. (A perm and bangs is not a good look for me.)

"Have you never heard of Keanu Reeves?" Shrieked Shana, while Katie giggled, observing me like the awkward weirdo that I was at age 10.

I was stunned.

"How did they know?" I wondered. "Did they like him too? Did other people like him? Was this a common thing? Was I not a total freakazoid?"

I did my best to convince them that, yes, I had heard of Keanu Reeves, and yes, I too thought he was the best thing to happen to a white t-shirt since the Gap, but it was too late. At this juncture in our game, it looked like I was only saying I liked him because they liked him, which, in the world of the 5th grade is even worse than admitting you don't like anyone at all.

It was a lesson that I learned quickly -- always take ownership of that which you like. Even if that something is Keanu Reeves in a movie about an exploding bus.

Or Adam Levine's tats.

Or tuna salad sandwiches with pickles and chips stuffed in them.

Or the roasted broccoli with ricotta salata at the local mini-chain that you haven't been able to stop thinking about since you ate there four weeks ago and then immediately had to recreate at home because it was the best broccoli you'd ever had, and you didn't know why you hadn't always been eating broccoli with ricotta salata.

You know, since like the 5th grade.

When you had bangs, an ill-advised perm, and wore colored jeans from the Limited Too.

Broccoli with Ricotta Salata and Quinoa
Inspired by the salad at Lemonade
Serves 4

Notes: It probably won't come as a shock to you that the original dish this is inspired by doesn't contain quinoa. I added quinoa, red quinoa specifically, because one can't necessarily make an entire meal out of just broccoli and ricotta salata. Without, you know, becoming hungry ten minutes later. So this is the bulked up version of the salad at Lemonade. With quinoa, and a champagne vinaigrette made with apple cider. You can toss some dried mulberries, cranberries or slivered almonds in there if you'd like. Whatever you do -- own it. And be sure to tell your friends about it first.

3/4 cup red quinoa, rinsed well
2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt, pepper
1/3 cup ricotta salata crumbles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil in a medium sauce pan. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to low, and cook, covered, until the water has been completely absorbed (approximately 20-25 minutes as red quinoa takes longer to cook than white). Fluff with the fork and set aside to dry out and come to room temperature.

Toss broccoli with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, then lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.  Remove from oven and set aside.

While broccoli is roasting, bring 1/2 cup apple cider and the champagne vinegar to a slow boil in a small sauce pan. Add the minced shallots and cook for 6-8 minutes until reduced. Turn off the heat, whisk in the mustard, remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Toss quinoa with the broccoli and the dressing to taste. Chill or serve warm topped with crumbled ricotta salata.


Banana Wonder said...

Oh, Lemonade! I used to go to the DTLA one back in the day. Great salad, but seriously better story about your mad crush. I totally relate to your 10yo tall girl swagger.

Gastronomer said...

Turning to quinoa to "bulk up" a brock salad?! LOL...Bacon's a good bulker too ;-)

Ashley said...

We need an amendment to this post. Photographic evidence of your bang/perm hairstyle.

Curry-Hansen said...

I was looking up this recipe because, like you, I had this salad at Lemonade a couple months ago and also haven't been able to figure out why I haven't been eating broccoli this way! Also, love your comments about the perm and the Keanu crush- I feel like I could have written this blog myself, haha.