Eat Your Broccoli
For those of you who didn’t know, hedonists are those of us who enjoy pleasure – particularly sensual pleasure. Like good tasting food, for example. Even better if it’s good for you, too.
Take broccoli, for example. The plural of the Italian plural of broccolo, which means “the flowering top of a cabbage,” broccoli is a great source of such goodies as vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory benefits. Not long ago I tried what was one of the best broccoli dishes in recent memory while I was out dining with a friend one night.
Intrigued? Then head over to the Paragon Restaurant and Bar in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. There, besides a live music line-up, Chef Chris Hartfield – who will have been at the Paragon for four years this coming October – whips up his famous seared broccoli. (After my “discovery,” I contacted Chef Chris to investigate further. He invited me in to watch him prepare – and sample once again – this veritable veggie delight.)
Chef Chris created this dish some 15 years ago, in 1996, while he was working at Serafina for some eight and a half years, between 1993 and 2001. Inspired while on his travels to the Basque region of Spain, where he was first exposed to this dish (he’s also researched the cuisine of Portugal and Latin America), Chef Chris added “Blackened Broccoli” dish to Serafina’s antipasti menu. (During that time, he also worked at Bick’s Broadview Grill in Greenwood.) Then he moved to the now defunct Eastlake-to-Fremont Bandoleone for a few years, and then Marianna’s by the Market at Pike Place.
At Paragon, this dish is called the “Seared Broccoli” and is made with broccoli and sweet red bell peppers. The garlic, chili flakes, and lime juice. (Chris tells me he – and it – were featured on KCTS 9 Cooks.) In my books, it’s right up there with popcorn, French fries, and Tater Tots® … seriously. He even shared the recipe with me, so that I could, in turn, share it with you, dear hedonists:
Seared Broccoli, Chef Chris Hartfield, Paragon Queen Anne
4 ounces/4 Tbsp of olive oil
1 head of broccoli, cut into spears
¼ sweet red bell pepper, julienned
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1 ½ tsp chili flakes
1 ounce/1 Tbsp of lime juice
Pinches of salt and black pepper to taste
1. Add ½ oil to a pan, get it smoking hot.
2. Mix together peppers and broccoli, and drop into pan.
3. Add salt and pepper.
4. Let it cook for about 1 ½ minutes, add oil so doesn’t burn.
5. Turn broccoli to other side, cook 1 ½ minutes add garlic and chili flakes, then turn again.
6. After 30 seconds, then deglaze pan with lime juice, 1.5 minutes stir turn broccoli one more time.
7. Stir and plate.
Suggestions from your Hedonista: I’d recommend trying this with some Brussels sprouts that are halved and pre-blanched.
“Every place I’ve been, it’s overtaken the menu,” says Chef Chris. Try it and you’ll see why. Sure, cook it at home, but be sure to check it out at the Paragon: at $9 a plate or a mere $6 during Paragon’s Happy Hour, which they call Tini Time, it’s worth heading on over for a try.(Tini Time runs 4-7 p.m. Monday to Friday, with Late Night Tini Time running 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
In short, eat your broccoli, dear hedonists … not just because it’s good for you, but because it also tastes good.
Oh, and speaking of tasting good, after you’ve filled your boots with some delectable seared broccoli, saddle up to the bar and have a chat with owner, operator, and – when he feels like it – bartender Todd Ivester. Ask him to make you one of many cocktails that, well, simply taste good. “All these young bucks want to make cocktails and their own bitters,” Todd informed me the last time I was at the Paragon, “That’s fine; I just want something that tastes good.”
The next time you go in, I recommend that you ask for his version of a Tequila Mockingbird ($6 during Happy Hour), which was inspired by the Tequila Mockingbird 2 featured in In the Land of Cocktails, written by Cocktail Chicks Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan. Todd’s version uses Espolón Tequila Blanco (or, for a smokier flavor, the Reposado) … in this drink, tequila never tasted so smooth … or so good.
And a final good thing: their Northwest Bread Pudding ($8). Made with fresh bread, vanilla custard, rum macerated Bing cherries, candied pecans and cinnamon that’s served with whipped cream and caramel sauce, this tasty nosh is more akin to a cinnamon roll than bread pudding. (Which is a good thing in my books, as I’m rarely pleasantly surprised by bread pudding.) Sharing with a friend is recommended, as this dessert is humongous.