broccoli and provolone melts
Do people still dedicate songs to their loved ones on the radio? Like that radio show of my childhood that ran during evenings on the soft rock channel, Requests and Dedications with Delilah. “Delilaaaah, love someone toniiiight.” Well let’s just say they do, because I'd like to take this time to dedicate a song to that special something in my life. That something that I never knew I always wanted. This dedication goes out to my one and only* baby boo, that shining jewel of the diner fare crown, the melt.
It all started when, not one smooth second after I got done telling you about how otherworldly this soup was when paired with a grilled cheese, my soul started desperately pining for more hot buttered-bread melty-cheese sandwiches. Melts, where have you been all my life! After a week glaring scornfully at all of the well-intentioned food in my fridge whose only crime was not being a melt, I resolved to find out.
But of course there were hurdles to cross before I could have my heart's desire, mainly my own indecision. Should I stick with this almost-but-not-quite-earnest veggie number that we’ve enjoyed in the past, or lean all the way into the diner fare vibe and attempt for the first time the somewhat divisive, but potentially scrumptious, tuna melt? I had my way with both of them because monogamy is meaningless in the world of cheesey buttery love. And so we had a duo melts for Sunday supper along with a big pot of our current favorite tomato soup. It was a fine, fine way to spend the evening as we made the melts duke it out for our affection.
This broccoli and provolone melt brought its A-Game and wooed us by being both virtuous (broccoli!) and indulgent (cheese!), with a palpable swagger that only comes from a boatload of garlic that's been gently sautéed with red pepper flakes and flecked with parmesan and lemon zest. Above all else is the praise it deserves for turning toast into dinner (bless). But, was it the Best Melt, you ask? Next time!
*Speaking of, today also happens to be mine and Cos’s 4th anniversary! Aww shoot, I love you, Cos!
Broccoli Melts, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yields 4 small melts
1 bunch broccolini (or 1 medium-sized stalk of regular broccoli)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice, of 1/2 lemon (zest before juice, always!)
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 thin slices totally unfancy deli provolone
4 slices bread of your choice (or 2 very large slices cut in half, as we used)
Cut broccolini into roughly 1-inch segments (peel stems with a vegetable peeler first if using regular broccoli).
Using a sauté pan, bring an inch or so of salted water to a boil. Add the broccolini to the water and boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels, removing as much extra liquid as possible. Give the broccolini another rough chop until it resembles a rubble-like texture.
Wipe the sauté pan dry and return it to the stove over medium heat. Add the olive oil and allow it to heat it for at least a full minute. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Toss in the broccolini and cook for 5 minutes, seasoning with salt to taste along the way. If you like crispy bits as much as we do, turn the heat up to high for a final 2 minutes to get some brown edges on some of the pieces. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add lemon zest, lemon juice, and parmesan, plus more salt or red pepper flakes if you like.
Heat your broiler. Arrange the sliced bread on a tray and lightly toast on both sides. (Though, I got impatient and only toasted on one and it was fine.) Portion out the broccoli mixture onto the bread, cover each piece with a slice of provolone and run it under the broiler until the cheese is blistered and bronzed and irresistible.