broccoli melts Recipes

broccoli melts

Most of my understanding of the category of diner sandwiches we know as “melts” comes from the hyper-local archive of culinary amusements I know as Foods My Husband Will Order For Himself When Left To His Own Devices. I can’t give away all of his secrets — well, I can, but for a fee — but I have been given permission to tell you that the list is topped with Regrettable Chinese Takeout With a Life-Threatening Amount of Sichuan Peppercorns (to be repeated next time, no lessons learned), and somewhat further down the list, only if the day has been long and terrible enough, is a tuna melt — as in jarred mayo meets canned fish meets something square and flat that only passes for cheese in America. Did it not always come with a side of steak fries, which I want to steal because you should know by now that fries don’t count when I say I’m not hungry for dinner, I’d probably be breaking our house “don’t yuck my yum” rule even more often than my offspring.

what you'll need
peel your stems and everything cooks at the same time

So when I read that 2016 was going to be the year of the melt, I wondered if we were in for more dark times for Deb, such as when the entire universe decided that beets were delicious and it was 24 months before I could safely order a salad again. Instead, I decided to take matters into my own hands and rewrite the melt script in a way that I could enjoy, endlessly. Because I like bread. I like cheese. And while tuna salad may not be my thing, I hope you will soon agree that the mess I call Broccoli Rubble is ever as much deserving to be a star.

a quick saute

pecorino inside
scooped and draped with cheese
this is going to be the year of the broiler at SK

Loosely inspired by my favorite crispy broccoli as well as this pecorino fried bread, broccoli rubble applies the same family of flavors to the stovetop, where briefly blanched and well-chopped broccoli is sautéed with a sinus-clearing volume of garlic and pepper flakes, before being dressed with lemon zest, juice and salty pecorino cheese. Previously, I was happy enough to eat broccoli rubble straight from the bowl, but now that I’ve seen what happens draped with with a broiled-until-blistered-and-collapsed slice of deli provolone, there’s no going back. Biting into this, I realized that we expect things under a curtain of cheese to be mild or bland but this — all crunch and booming flavor, basically, broccoli talking with its hands — is anything but. All that’s missing is the steak fries.

broccoli melts
broccoli melts

One year ago: Perfect Corn Muffins
Two years ago: Stuck-Pot Rice with Lentils and Yogurt
Three years ago: Italian Stuffed Cabbage
Four years ago: Double Coconut Muffins
Five years ago: Green Bean Salad with Fried Almonds
Six years ago: Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes with Mint Chocolate Cream
Seven years ago: Alex’s Mom’s Stuffed Cabbage
Eight years ago: Best Chocolate Pudding
Nine years ago: Mom’s Chocolate Chip Meringues

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Frozen Hot Chocolate
1.5 Years Ago: Smoky Eggplant Dip
2.5 Years Ago: Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes
3.5 Years Ago: My Favorite Brownies
4.5 Years Ago: Hazelnut Plum Crumb Tart

Broccoli Melts

I usually make this with broccolini, which I prefer because it much less notably discolors when hit with lemon juice. Outside of aesthetics, both broccolini and regular broccoli work the same here, and are equally delicious. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys anchovies, they meld well here with the garlic and pepper flakes.

Yield: 8 small-medium open-faced melts

1 pound broccolini or regular broccoli
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
A few pinches red pepper flakes, to taste
Finely grated zest, then juice, of 1/2 lemon (juice before zesting only if you enjoy being grumpy)
Coarse salt, to taste
1/2 cup finely grated aged pecorino romano cheese
8 thin slices totally unfancy deli provolone
8 slices bread of your choice

If using broccolini, cut it into 2-inch segments. If regular broccoli, peel the stems with a vegetable peeler first so that they cook evenly, and cut the rest into large chunks.

Pour about 1-inch puddle of salted water into a large sauté pan and bring to a boil. Add broccoli and cover with a lid and boil/steam for 2 minutes. Drain well and pat dry on paper towels, wringing out as much extra liquid as possible. Chop into small (roughly 1/2-inch) bits.

Wipe sauté pan dry and heat over medium. Add olive oil and let it heat for a full minute. Add garlic and pepper flakes, cooking for 1 minutes, or until the garlic is just beginning to turn golden. Add the broccoli and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, seasoning with salt. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add lemon zest, juice, pecorino and more salt and pepper flakes to taste.

Heat broiler. Arrange slices of bread on a tray and lightly toast on both sides. Scoop broccoli mixture onto each slice of bread, lay a slice of provolone over it and run under the broiler until cheese has melted and begun to blister. Eat. Repeat. Don’t forget to share, or at least hide the evidence if you decide not to.

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141 comments on broccoli melts

  1. deb

    Re, losing vitamins, perhaps not an old wive’s tale but not something I generally fuss over. Regardless, I meant to add that the goal is to get it very lightly cooked while still 90% crisp. You could steam, microwave or even just sauté it for a couple minutes to the same effect.

  2. While this does sound fantastic, I have to admit that tuna melts are at the top of my list for all-time favorite things to eat, and not just at a diner. Actually, tuna melts were all I ate at the hospital once I’d given birth. I’d put myself on a very strict nearly tuna free diet for years and year in anticipation of having children. And now that I know I’m done, I can’t be stopped.

    And you know how I love a good beet salad. Incidentally, I meant to suggest you read Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins for a pro-beet book. With all that extra time you have these days, of course.

  3. Courtney

    Amber – There is some nutrition loss when you boil veggies, but blanched veggies aren’t in the water long enough for it to make a difference. It’s when you’ve boiled vegetables until they loose a lot of their color that you’ve lost some nutrition to the water.

  4. Katey

    Oops- just updated the webpage- sorry to repeat the suggestion!
    The only kind of chef that I could ever become is a toast specialist, so I really appreciate you opening this new avenue for investigation!

  5. Susan

    Tuna melts are my #1 craving food. I’ll go months and months without thinking about them and suddenly I’ll think “I WOULD PUNCH SOMEONE IN THE FACE FOR A TUNA MELT RIGHT NOW” and then I can’t concentrate on anything else until I get one. This looks like a pretty great variation though…..

  6. Karen

    How well do you think this would work with broccoflower? I bought some in a fit of inspiration and then…lost the inspiration. Would love to find a way to use it that *might* be acceptable to my two kids!

  7. SallyO

    I’m afraid to admit that a good tuna melt may well be my favorite sandwich choice. I’m actually thrilled it’s the year of the melt. That said, this broccoli melt looks fab and I am seriously going to try it. I may however use cheddar since it’s my favorite kind of cheese. The absolute yummiest thing on your blog, however is that little ginger sprout. The hair, is it getting redder by the day? And those curls. I can’t even take the cuteness.

  8. I had diner tuna melt on the mind before you even Said ‘hubby’s tuna melt!’ On sourdough or rye, “never try this at home,” and with the fries you speak of. Anywhooo – only when out. Herein comes these delights! I’m so making these in the Home-land. Great mix. Love the vegetarian (says the tuna melt eater) angle!

  9. Jae

    Molly – I second your recommendation that Deb read Jitterbug Perfume! Such a good book, and it is the reason I even ever tried beets. (Their earthiness frightened me before then.) I still don’t really enjoy them, but I can appreciate what they bring to the table now.

    On a side note, (or rather, more on topic) I’ve never commented here before but read your posts religiously. It’s usually the simpler recipes that I adore the most, so I’m sure this one will be a hit too. Can’t wait to try it!

  10. Alicia

    Took me a second to realize it was on bread, rather than stuffed in a potato. Thoughts on if I can sub??? On a gluten free pregnancy diet. Thank you ;)

  11. Christine

    Holy holy, but that baby. I want to eat her. I have everything for this except broccoli. I bet even the toddler might eat this as he is into both broccoli and bread. Winner, winner. I’m stopping by the store tonight. Wish me luck!

  12. Ann

    Mmmm, mmm … I don’t have any broccoli at home, but I’m thinking that head of cauliflower in my fridge would substitute beautifully.

  13. Sarah R.

    “broccoli talking with its hands” – love it and can’t wait to eat this. Possibly tonight on top of a baked potato since I don’t have bread on hand. This is my kind of February slush storm consolation food.

  14. ElleB

    So my son LOVES roasted broccoli (as in, we bribe him to eat his dinner with the reward of more broccoli)…which is great, except that is the only way he’ll eat it. I’m hoping he’ll eat this because I need it in my life!

  15. Deb, I love the anchovy idea you mention briefly. Do you see it being something you chop up and add in at the end? Would it be too much to top 1/2 anchovy per slice?

  16. Anna

    These are awesome! Made them tonight for dinner with rosemary sourdough bread and cheddar instead of provolone (it’s what I had around). Perfect quick tasty dinner after a long day. Thanks for another great broccoli recipe; keep ’em coming!

  17. Sarah

    While this looks delicious and I plan to make it soon, I’m really just commenting to say that you and your husband make exceptionally beautiful babies.

  18. Randi

    I am simultaneously elated and horrified this is the year of the melt. I LOVE all melts and especially tuna on sourdough with sharp cheddar, however my gallbladder is in the midst of a rebellion and may have to be done away with. In the meantime I’m on a cheese hiatus which I never thought would/could happen. My firm belief is cheese=life.

    This combines my hands down favorite vegetable with crispy bread and melty cheese and even with everything else taken into account I REALLY, REALLY want to eat this! It looks AMAZING!

  19. Hadley

    I am in France, and I am wondering how a croque monsieur à la broccoli to replace the ham would be….think I’m going to have to try it. YAY!

  20. tara@littlehomekitchen.wordpress

    I’ve always made pizza like this (sometimes with tomato sauce, sometimes without) but stupidly it never occurred to me to make a quick fix on bread! Thanks!

  21. Anything with melted cheese on top tends to be delicious. I’m going to try this for lunch–I have some broccoli in the fridge and yesterday I made your whole-wheat oatmeal bread! (and there is always an assortment of cheese around here–I’m in France and it’s almost required by law).

  22. Jeanne

    Made this last night, scaled down because I only had a little broccoli! And didn’t have provolone so used shredded jarlsburg. It was yummy! And broccoli (lemon too) being a good alkaline choice too! Thank you for posting! :)

  23. These look great! I’m strongly in favor of anything –melt!!
    But, I think I’ll try it with rapini (an Italian bitter green aka broccoli rabe) — rapini can stand up to the strong flavors here and really shines with the garlic/chili/lemon combo!

  24. I am with you on the dislike of tuna melts and beets. There is something about warmed up tuna salad that I just can’t handle and beets taste like dirt to me. I’m fairly certain I’ve never even eaten a tuna melt. Also, as a grown up, I seem to have lost my love of tuna salad anyway.
    Broccoli is a favorite and I will give this a try asap. Thanks!

  25. Melanie

    I can’t wait to make this! I am going to put a thick layer of these garbanzos-http://joythebaker.com/2016/02/olive-oil-braised-chick-peas-with-feta/- under the Brocc-perfection. And it will be just a wee bit nutritious. Yeah right…

  26. Sue

    Hi Deb,
    Thanks for sharing the recipe. I wonder if you could put the links to past recipes at the bottom of the recipe, so that the entire recipe will fit on one page?
    Thanks for your consideration.
    Sue

  27. Chris

    I just want to say I *love* your blog. Your writing is really great, and I enjoy every time I see a new entry arrive in my inbox. Thanks for doing what you do, and doing it so well.

  28. Susan

    I am so sad that I squandered my broccolini on a crappy dinner the other night when I could’ve had THIS tonight!! Argh.

    A question-could you blanch the broccoli/broccolini? What sort of texture is the goal here? Just checking. Thanks for another amazing recipe. :)

  29. Yesterday, I was wondering just why the happy heck did I buy double the broccoli I needed for soup; now, I know the answer! This is my dinner tonight, and I cannot wait. Thanks, Deb!

  30. deb

    Susan — You’re going for it to be bright green but still very crunchy.

    Sue — Ah, that was a misplaced tag on my end. Now fixed. (It’s usually below that cluster of links.)

    Adding anchovies — You saute it in with the garlic at the beginning. The Lot 2 version uses 6 anchovies for half a pound of broccoli; that sounds like a bit much to me but to each their own. I might use one or two.

  31. Could there be a more perfect apres ski meal?
    Just purchased some broccoli rabe that will be right at home nestled under a pile of cheeeeeeese. And thank you kindly for the anchovy suggestion. (That’s happening.)

  32. I am so glad that someone else hates beets! I don’t get them! I was horrified to find someone had ruined a perfectly good cinnamon roll recipe by putting pureed beets in the dough. The horror! These broccoli melts, on the other hand, look delicious!

  33. Staci

    Beets I can do without. But the diner tuna melt is a favorite. Especially on rye with Swiss and tomato. Especially from Waverly Diner. Or Pete’s Diner on Queens Blvd. I break my vegetarianism for one of those!!!! I can’t wait to try these broccoli melts though- all of the deliciousness with no guilt. Thanks!

  34. Mimi

    I could eat these RIGHT NOW, but I only have Swiss chard, and no provolone … only Edamer. Sigh.

    Your offspring photograph made my eyes water. What a happy little darling… (the one without the beard ;)

  35. Aarthi

    I make the original lemony blistered broccoli with good bread and butter once a week or more when the husband is traveling. It is my guilt free option although I wish it had more protein. This one I can sell to my husband as a sandwich and add a salad and call it a meal to end with a cookie of course (for balance). I wish we had smaller boules where we live in Seattle. I end up throwing a lot of stale bread. Do people have success freezing baguettes and crusty breads?

  36. Juniper

    Made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! A very substantial vegetarian meal. I used a rosemary bread not sure if the flavors would work together but it was perfect. I couldn’t find the pecorino romano cheese at my grocery store so I used a parmesan/romano blend. Will be making again!

  37. Marilou

    Re the toast: I have always toasted on both sides but one of the best restaurants here in the Berkshires of western MA always does “toasts” with only one side browned. I’m thinking this may allow the spready-thing to soak in better. ?? Any opinions?

  38. PaulaW

    Made it … ate it… loved it. Thanks for a quick and easy… And beautiful supper. After a long day it was such a treat to be excited about making this. Was tempted to skimp on the garlic but was glad I didn’t. Could not have been more perfect.

  39. Teresa

    This looks delicious. Very similar to a recipe in my Claire’s Corner Copia cookbook from the famous vegetarian restaurant near Yale in New Haven, CT. She uses broccoli and mushrooms with monterey jack. So yummy. Can’t wait to try your version–I love provolone cheese and don’t use it enough.

  40. Annalisse

    Just tried this for dinner tonight and it was exquisite! I have Celiac’s disease, so I did a socca (a la David Lebovitz) for the base and broiled it as usual. One batch of socca used approximately all of the broccoli mixture (I happily ate the remaining broccoli with a fork).
    Adding some chopped roasted red pepper might be a delicious variation. We’ll try it next time, but that might just be tinkering with perfection. : )

  41. Lisa

    I could sit and read your blog all day. We would all starve, but I would be happy. The descriptions do make me want to jump right up and cook something. Your pictures are outstanding. Your family just as precious as can be. Thanks so much for sharing your talents with us. I am a huge fan.

  42. “Most of my understanding of the category of diner sandwiches we know as “melts” comes from the hyper-local archive of culinary amusements I know as Foods My Husband Will Order For Himself When Left To His Own Devices.” Hahaha. This is a perfect sentence. If I wrote it, I would only replace “melts” with “scrambles.”

  43. Michele H.

    Holy Cats, that looks good! And that could be the only thing you make for dinner, since it has veggies, protein, and carbs in one dish! Hello, veggie aisle!!

  44. Jamie

    Before I read the recipe, just from the picture, I thought the base of this melt was a halved sweet potato and now I can’t stop thinking about that, although I’m sure toasty bread is also (obviously) delicious.

  45. anita

    In case anyone is wondering, this recipe is still delicious if you really don’t want to go to the store and use (a) a combination of broccoli and cauliflower; (b) cheddar rather than provolone; and (c) a handful of your two-year-old’s baby belles instead of parmesan.

  46. This looks fantastic. Like Molly, I love tuna melts, but restrain myself because I plan on having a couple of kids. Deb, I thought our palates were soul sisters because you’ve never led me astray, but then you drop the bombshell that you don’t like beets?! I LOOOOOOVE beets with so much of my being. I typically just boil and peel. They’re so sweet and pair beautifully with goat cheese and barrel aged balsamic. I also like them raw, julienned with vinegar and tossed in a salad, most recently with avocado and garlic-sauteed celery root.

  47. Eleanor

    Made this tonight as an appetizer/side, and it was awesome! On the second batch, I didn’t toast the bread before putting on the broccoli, and those turned out better. If the bread is fresh, don’t roast before:gives the final product a nice chewiness. If it’s day old bread, I’d say go ahead and toast. Thanks, Deb! Perfect weeknight side.

  48. Mels

    Could not wait to make this and had no suitable bread so we just had the broccoli mixture on the side of rice and roast chicken. So delicious!!! I cannot wait to make it on toasts!!

  49. Charlotte

    Thanks for this one. My children like most others are veggie avoiders with the exception of Broccoli. So I serve it with everything and have broccoli and Stilton soup about 4 times a week, greatful for any recipes which give me some variation.

  50. Georgina

    Made these last night with CSA broccoli. It definitely hit the grilled cheese spot with some green. I paired with tomato soup and it was perfection. Thank you!

  51. Lee

    I know what I am doing with this green “delishisnus’, it’s going on Polenta, Spahetti Squash, Sweet Potatoes and of course a nice Rustic Italian Bread downed by a bottle of Red!

  52. Sarah G.

    Made these with a couple of White Russians this afternoon with my mom. Both were amazing. I took another commenter’s advice to only toast one side of the bread and they were perfect! Thanks, Deb!!

  53. Peg

    They used these yummies on QVC yesterday when they were offering crisper screens for the oven. Meredith and David sang your praises and said they were big fans of Smitten Kitchen. Looked delish, they did a good job showcasing your recipe!

  54. Sherry

    Oh my goodness! A bountiful melt!! I loved every bite an am seriously considering making another one right now!! I loved the garlic and I used a Meyer lemon. My mouth is wanting more. I also downloaded the recipe for a cauliflower melt. Do you think that toasted sunflower seeds would add anything to the recipe? I ask because when I used to get tuna melts, I remember them being added to that one!! I love your recipes!

  55. This seriously looks stunning and delicious.
    Well, I never think about ‘melt recipes’ (or even baked recipes) as healthy foods before, but this really surprises me.
    This must be perfect when paring with simple veggie soup. Love it.

  56. vivian

    I used to eat meat, but now am vegetarian. This is better than any tuna melt I have ever had. So often, vegetarian sandwiches are roasted vegetables with goat cheese. That’s OK, but gets boring after a while. This blows it out of the water.Thanks so much!

  57. Susan S

    I’m trying these tonight stuffed in portabella mushroom caps (instead of on top of bread) with bread on the side. Super excited! Thanks Smitten Kitchen!

  58. Maria

    These are so delicious! I made the broccoli mixture at the beginning of the week and stored it in the fridge. I’ve been toasting off individual melts for every meal, and they are still delicious on day three! Plus, the cheese topping hides the less than vibrant green of leftover broccoli.

  59. OMG Deb, these look incredible! I’m going to go ahead and file this under ‘best Smitten Kitchen recipes to make before I die.’ (maybe that could be the title of your next book?)
    I personally love a bready, cheesy thing as much as the next person, but at diners, these two ingredients are more often than not used to showcase something meaty (or canned tuna-y) – a major disappointment to someone who doesn’t eat much meat. I love the idea of broccoli as the star. Thanks for sharing!

  60. Wendy

    File this one under “things that taste too good to stop eating” (even though it made you eat a half a loaf of bread.) The garlickly-lemony squirt of each bite made it impossible to stop. Huge thanks!

  61. iris

    thank you deb, we ate this dish yesterday and loved it! isn’t it funny that you think of a dish, it materialises in your kitchen and then you spread it like seeds around the world. thank you so much.

  62. mks

    Back to add: I made this again, doubling the broc and used it in an egg scramble and again with rice noodles and broth for a quick lunch soup. Delicious and so many ways to use the “rubble”! Thank you!

  63. sarahoc

    I made this today, but I didn’t have provolone, so I chopped up some sharp cheddar and taleggio instead, and added a sunny side egg on top. My husband loved it and said it reminded him of something that they would serve at Shopsin’s, which is his favorite restaurant and high praise!

  64. Katie

    We have a head of romanesco I bought on a whim. I’ve not cooked with it before, but know it can often be substituted for broccoli — has anyone tried it here?

  65. Cristina

    This was excellent! I used a crusty sourdough and included the anchovies, just two, minced. The leftovers were quite good reheated the next day, too!

  66. Lauren

    Made this for dinner last night and loved it, of course, but the shocker is that all three of my very particular, but not-particular-in-the-same-way eaters gobbled it up AND asked to eat the leftovers today for lunch. Hallelujah!

  67. Megan

    My faith in weeknight cooking, temporarily lost due to getting into a rut because of busy life pressures, has been completely restored by this recipe! I bought the ingredients last night, and then tonight managed to cook and eat it in the 30 minutes I had before my evening appointment. So delicious that I am inspired to get back in the game! Btw, I added the anchovies and I was glad.

  68. Marcia

    Made this (with my guacamole and chips) as a simple supper & spirits evening for some friends, who could not compliment this lovely concoction enough. One had it with beer, another with some red, and I with tequila. Whatever you serve it with, it works! Thanks for another stellar recipe, Deb.
    and, ps, ditto all that Lisa (comment 79) said! You are an amazing woman. :)
    Thanks so much for sharing your many talents with us.

  69. I saw the pictures somewhat yesterday and I HAD TO COOK THIS :D Immediately! So today dinner was mainly about your broccoli melts and they are so delicious <3 Thanks for the recipe!

  70. Shaye

    Wanted to suggest my family’s fav broccoli-cheese sandwich — a well-olive-oiled bread with broccoli, blue cheese and toasted walnuts. So good.

  71. Bracha

    This recipe was featured on BuzzFeed’s “31 Delicious Things to Cook in May.” before even looking down at the caption i knew that it was a Smitten Kitchen recipe! I recognized the baking sheets and the overall style of photography. Can’t wait to try these- can never go wrong with broccoli and cheese!

  72. Joan

    Thank you Deb, I’m going to get regular unsmoked, smoked might fight with all those other flavors going on. Making this in three days CAN’T WAIT

  73. Mindy

    This is genius. I substituted garlic scrapes for the garlic, and used havarti instead of provolone, because that’s what I had on hand, and it couldn’t have been a more delicious lunch. Except maybe if I had added a glass of wine.

  74. Susan

    This was really tasty; however, my toppings came off my toast as I ate it. Next time (and yes, there will be a next time), I will ad a thin slice of cheese (glue) on the toast before I add the broccoli. Otherwise, this tastes delicious. I served with roasted pork tenderloin and crispy french fries.

  75. LipstickLibrarian

    Deb, I used to be able to save your recipes to NYT Cooking, but with your upgraded blog I no longer can do that.

    Do you now have a way I can save your recipes on your blog?

    Thanks very much

  76. Michelle G

    We made these again last week and they are so delicious! My husband doesn’t even really like cooked broccoli and he loves these! I’ve made these with provolone and also with havarti – both are excellent choices! Thanks for the great recipe!

  77. I don’t know why it’s taken me eight months to make this, but having just returned to work after a year of maternity leave, and with a commute that at best gets me home with about twenty minutes to get something on the table before my son starts melting down, I’m on the lookout for fast and delicious weeknight meals. I actually made the broccoli salad tonight to have it ready for tomorrow’s dinner, but I’m standing at the counter and eating it with a spoon…