Sure, we all want to eat food that is less processed and has less sugar and salt and unhealthy fat. But how about flavor? Spices and condiments are great. But I’d like to sing the praises of Parmesan cheese today — because I think that this lovely cheese has gotten a bad rap.
I agree that dairy fat isn’t as healthy as fats from plants. But here’s the thing about Parmesan: you get a lot of flavor bang for your buck. That’s especially true for Parmesan that’s well aged (yay for the elderly!) A little bit of it, sliced or grated (as in the recipe that follows) goes a long way. A tablespoon of grated Parmesan has only 22 calories. If you throw a Parmesan rind into the pot while you’re making soup with vegetables or beans, you’ll be thrilled with the results. What’s more, many lactose intolerant people have no problem with aged Parmesan.
There’s another way in which Parmesan has been falsely maligned. A couple of years ago, there was a lot of publicity about the horrors of processed grated cheese because it contains “wood pulp.” While the Parmesan that comes out of the can may taste like wood pulp, the accusation was ridiculous. Processed grated Parmesan does contain small amounts of cellulose, an insoluble plant fiber, to keep the cheese from clumping. But referring to this cellulose as “wood pulp” is misleading and disingenuous.
Today, I’m offering a recipe that I hope you’ll love and use as a base for other ingredients. The Parmesan makes such a difference. I did it with anchovies because I love them (am I the only one who does? Is there anyone else who likes anchovy pizza? Let me know if you’re out there — we should go out for some). But feel free to use shrimp or salmon or scallops — or go with just the beans and broccoli themselves and be done with it.
Grilled Broccoli and White Beans and Parmesan
- 1 bunch of broccoli
- 1 or 2 15-oz. cans of cannellini or great northern beans, drained and rinsed (or, if you’re a better person than I am, use cooked dried beans).
- 1 can anchovies (or something else that you like better)
- 1 lemon
- ½-1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
- Cut the broccoli in florets. Rinse and drain.
- Steam or microwave the florets for 1-2 minutes, until not quite cooked. Drain.
- Combine one tablespoon of oil with the minced garlic, and pour over the broccoli.
- Grill the broccoli over medium heat for a minute or so on each side or until you think it’s done (alternatively, you can roast the florets in a 425 degree preheated oven for ten minutes or so).
- Peel some strips of lemon peel, and then juice half of the lemon, or enough to get a tablespoon of juice. If you like, slice the other lemon half to use as a garnish.
- Peel some strips of Parmesan, and grate an additional tablespoon or so.
- Combine the lemon juice with the minced garlic and the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil.
- Arrange the arugula, beans, and broccoli on a platter. Place the anchovies (or whatever) and Parmesan strips over the top. Drizzle the lemon juice/olive oil mixture over everything. Top with the grated cheese.
(and how ‘bout that lovely garden?)