Last summer, I started volunteering with a local non-profit that encourages children to eat healthier and move more. The lessons are built around a community garden and teaching how to “grow your grub.” Let me tell you, it is fun—both for the kiddos and for me. There have been so many highlight reel moments. Kids squealing with excitement over finding a ripe watermelon. Proud mini-miners showing off their absurdly large sweet potatoes. Tiny fingers poking seeds into soil, one by one. Needless to say, Thursday with genHkids has become a favorite part of my week.
Since the weather’s turned cold, we’ve been inside and the program leaders have gotten creative with the substantive activities (the kids made kimchi yesterday — taste test next week!). The children hang in there for as long as their attention spans will allow and then they break off to play foosball or come up with dance routines. I spend my time as a ref and as an enthusiastic audience member. Even though the kids are the ones moving more, by the time all of the hugs and high-fives have been given out, I’m exhausted.
I get home in that awkward window when it’s too early to eat dinner but too close to dinner for much of a snack. I usually eat something small, but keep my focus on what to make. When I’m tired and hungry, takeout is usually the best answer, but I can’t in good conscience spend the afternoon encouraging kids to eat healthy and then break bad on some General Tso’s. I force myself to cook on these nights, which is when I’m most grateful for easy recipes.
I found this roasted broccoli, fennel, sausage bake a few weeks ago and it’s become the perfect Thursday night meal—it’s not only super easy, but it’s healthy-ish, too. Sausage is not the leanest protein, but veggies far outnumber the sausage pieces. After being dressed in a mustard-lemon vinaigrette and roasted, the broccoli and fennel are bright, floral, and caramelized in spots. They’re so tasty that even Ed, a notorious vegetable-avoider, gobbles them up. He cleans his plate every time and we never have any leftovers. He gets a high-five and a hug for that.
roasted broccoli, fennel, and sausage
adapted from food52
Use the best bulk sausage you can find. I buy it from the butcher counter at the grocery store the day I plan to make the dish.
I recommend broiling for a few minutes at the end of the cooking time, but do not broil if you’re using a Pyrex pan—it will shatter. I used Pyrex when I took the pictures for this post because I was testing the recipe without the broiling option. Verdict: still great.
Serves two hungry adults (if you serve it with a salad or bread, you could probably get more servings).
*Updated: I found that I usually make this with a whole lemon’s worth of juice rather than just 1 or 2 teaspoons, so I’ve adjusted the recipe below.
12 ounces bulk sausage, such as hot Italian (remove casings if necessary)
2 heads of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons grainy dijon mustard
zest from one lemon
juice from one lemon
salt and pepper
optional: 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (if not using hot sausage)
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Toss broccoli florets and fennel slices with salt and pepper and spread them in a single layer in a shallow metal or enameled cast-iron baking dish (see note above re: caution about using Pyrex).
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, mustard, zest, and lemon juice (and red pepper, if using). Pour over vegetables and toss to coat thoroughly.
Pinch off or cut small chunks of the sausage and nestle them among the vegetables.
Bake for 10 minutes, stir mixture, and bake for another 10 minutes or until the broccoli is tender and the sausage is no longer pink. Optional: broil for a couple of minutes to get the sausage crispy and the vegetables slightly charred.
Adjust seasonings for more salt or pepper. Serve hot.