Grill a simple vegetable like broccolini and layer up the flavors with an easy lemon tahini dressing, fresh pomegranate seeds, and toasted pine nuts. It’s a side dish with major wow factor.
It comes together in under 25 minutes (so quick!) and it looks (and tastes!) stunning—bright colors, different textures, and a super creamy dressing. It all adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
Broccolini is Great for Grilling
Broccolini is a fantastic veg for the grill. Grill it quickly over high direct heat, set right over the lit coals or burners. I use a kettle charcoal grill and find that I don’t need to light a lot of coal for this and I set the lit coals on just one side of the grill.
Broccolini is a cross between regular broccoli and gai lan, sometimes called Chinese kale or Chinese broccoli. You can use the whole thing—they’ll be no waste since you won’t need to trim it before grilling.
In the U.K., broccolini goes by the trademarked name of Tenderstem. You could use any variety of broccoli, like Bellaverde sweet stem broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli, or even the florets of regular broccoli.
Be Patient with Tahini and It will Reward You
Tahini is a delicious, nutty-tasting paste made with sesame seeds. The seeds are ground until buttery and smooth in the same way peanut butter is made. You can get dark tahini, made with un-hulled sesame seeds—it’s essentially a whole grain version of tahini. Light tahini, more commonly found, is refined and a little less bitter, which is what I prefer and use here. Use whichever you have available.
When you mix tahini with lemon juice, it thickens and creates a rather unappetizing clumpy paste. Don’t be dispirited! It will miraculously transform into a smooth and creamy dressing when you whisk in the cold water.
Love Pomegranate, But There are Subs
I love using pomegranate seeds on warm salads—they add color, crunch, and zing. They can be tricky to find in the summer, depending on whereabouts the in world you are looking. There is not really much in the fruit world like the jeweled seeds of a pomegranate, but you could use something else with a balance of sweet and sour, like dried cranberries or barberries.
Toast the Pine Nuts for a Boost of Flavor
The pine nuts, which are sprinkled on top of the grilled broccolini, get a little toasting treatment. Take the time to toast any type of nut prior to using them. A little hit of heat to brown them a couple of shades darker really wakes up their flavor and brings them back to life.
It only takes a couple of minutes in a pan over a high heat on the grill—they will smell wonderful, deeply nutty and complex. It’s a simple yet effective trick to upping the flavor.
How to Plan for Guests
When entertaining guests, I toast the pine nuts on the stove top and make the dressing a day ahead—you’ll have to give the dressing a good stir before using. The broccolini will taste best when grilled and served immediately so I wait until the guests arrive to pop them on the grill.
Vegetables Fired Away
Grilled Broccolini with Lemon Tahini Dressing
- 4 heaping tablespoons tahini
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 5 to 7 tablespoons (75 to 100 milliliters) ice cold water
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5 tablespoons (50g) raw pine nuts
- 14 ounces (400g) broccolini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup fresh pomegranate arils, from 1 large ripe pomegranate
- A good handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Aleppo pepper flakes, for garnish (optional)
Make the dressing:
In a medium bowl, add the tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. Gradually drizzle in 5 tablespoons ice cold water, whisking continuously to create a smooth, thin, and creamy dressing, adding more water as needed. Season with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper, stir well, and refrigerate until ready to use.
The dressing will keep for at least 3 days covered and chilled in the fridge.
Fire up the grill for direct grilling over high heat:
For a charcoal grill, light a small pile of coals—a couple handfuls should be enough—you won’t need much if you are not grilling anything else. Place the lit coals onto one half of the grill.
For a gas grill, turn on one burner to high heat.
Toast the pine nuts:
Tip the pine nuts into a small fireproof pan—it shouldn’t have any plastic or wooden parts. Set it on the grill directly over the fire. Toast for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown then transfer to a small dish and set it aside. You can also do this on the stove top over medium-high heat.
Grill the broccolini:
Place the broccolini in a large bowl, drizzle in the olive oil, and season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to evenly coat. Use tongs to rest the stems perpendicular to the grill bars directly over the fire.
Cook over a high heat for 8 to 10 minutes turning often until lightly charred and tender but still with plenty of bite. Every fire is different, so don’t go by cook times but by visual cues.
Dress and serve:
Transfer the grilled broccolini onto a serving plate and drizzle the dressing on top—it may need a good stir if it’s been sitting in the fridge for a while. Scatter the pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts, parsley, and Aleppo pepper flakes on top. Serve warm.
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