Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Tao of Broccoli

My partner Jake has a way of making things look easy. We've been married nineteen years, and even I will periodically find myself saying, "Wait, you have ANOTHER book out?" 

During our early years together we were both musicians, and it was exactly the same - he'd disappear into the basement for a bit and emerge with a cassette tape of perfect pop gems, fully arranged, with drum beats, bass lines, vocal harmonies and tasteful tambourine tracks.

Also, you should see his broccoli florets. Mine always turn out hacked and knobby, his are perfect little trees, and he doesn't even look like he's trying.

I'm teaching Henry how to cook, but I asked Jake to teach him how to floret, and Jake - in professorial mode - referred Henry to a story from Chuang Tzu about Cook Ting, carving an ox for Lord Wen-hui with dazzling precision.

Cook Ting explains to Lord Wen-hui that what he cares about is the Way:

"I have left skill behind me," he says. "Nowadays, I am in touch through the daemonic in me, and do not look with the eye. With the senses I know where to stop....I rely on Heaven's structuring, cleave along the main seams, let myself be guided by the main cavities, go by what is inherently so."

So that's Jake's secret, at least concerning broccoli. Henry made a slide show to document the process. Music by Jake Smith.

After Jake florets it, Henry and I cook it.

Here's our favorite recipe:


One large head of broccoli, daemonically floretted

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt

1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (optional)

2-3 cloves of garlic (optional)

Heat olive oil in a skillet or pot with a lid, add broccoli, and sauté on medium-high heat, 1-2 minutes

Add salt and optional garlic, stir, reduce heat, and cover

Let broccoli cook covered 3-5 more minutes

Uncover, stir in balsamic vinegar, taste for seasoning, and serve hot