Broccoli with balsamic onions and pine nuts

Does broccoli have an “image problem”? So declared the New York Times in a fascinating piece two months ago, examining what it would take for an ad agency to turn broccoli into a trend. The article makes a convincing argument to the effect that many people simply don’t like broccoli, and that marketing a food as healthful isn’t enough to make people eat it.

This may all seem a little strange, when you recall that broccoli has been cultivated and prized in the Mediterranean for perhaps 2,000 years, since the Roman era. Yet perhaps part of the problem is that people don’t entirely know what to do with it. Even though broccoli is a native of the Mediterranean, it’s not really used in any of the ethnic cuisines found in Israel. When I buy broccoli, I generally steam it — which seems to be most people’s cooking method of choice — or put it in some variation of an Asian stir-fry. Generally nothing too inspired.

In any case, broccoli grows best in colder weather, which might be why the broccoli at the Carmel Market this week was particularly large and attractive. Last weekend’s once-in-a-lifetime winter storm, which dumped more than a foot of snow on Jerusalem, probably wreaked havoc on crops, but this wasn’t entirely evident to judge from the produce in Tel Aviv’s most central market. By Monday, thousands of Jerusalemites may still have been without power in a frozen, snowed-in city, but Tel Aviv was sunny and starting to dry out, and the shook was full of fresh produce. They don’t call us a bubble city for nothing.

This versatile dish can be served as a side dish — we initially had it alongside rice. You can toss the leftovers with olive oil and pasta to make an easy sauce.

For 6-8 servings:

1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) broccoli — about three heads
330 grams (3/4 pounds) red onion — one large red onion
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts

Peel the thick broccoli stems to remove the fibrous outer layer, and cut the broccoli into bite-sized chunks. Put into a big pot, add about half a liter/quart of boiling water, and cover. Cook on a medium flame for about 10 minutes, until the broccoli is soft but still bright green. Once cooked, remove to a strainer to cool and drain.

In the meanwhile, chop the onion into strips. Add a tablespoon or so of oil to a frying pan, add the onion and stir in one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, the brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let fry on a medium-low flame, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and browned.

Mix the broccoli with the onion (you can add some broccoli to the onion pan to help clean it out) and toss with the balsamic vinegar, salt and green onion from the sauce.

To prepare the pine nuts, return the empty frying pan to the flame and toss in the pine nuts. Let toast for a minute or two, stirring so that they don’t burn. Once the pine nuts are lightly browned, remove to a cutting board, chop, and toss with the broccoli.

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