There is a certain complication to being a food writer. People assume you know a whole lot more about food than you actually do or that you have a recipe file in your head with complete access to what-to-do with every ingredient in nano-seconds.
So some unusual vegetable comes up at CSA distribution and folks want to know what to do with it, like, right now, as I am trying to divide 3/4 lb of string beans in my head and talk to Allison and keep track of my four-year-old fireball, who has to go potty. Now.
Uh…em…of course: I don’t effen know! Rachael and Martha and Alton have legions of minions to make them look all-knowing. Me? Nada…
So this time it was Steve (known as Farmer Steve around here) who got me with the broccoli rabe while a handful of other CSA members cocked an ear. Bus-ted.
I haven’t cooked with this stuff in a while (and not regularly since I lived in Italy back in the days of the Empire) and gave my stock answer: “When in doubt, saute in garlic” and went home to investigate.
So I found a few recipes, including the following one that I adapted from Giada De Laurentiis (who is a dead ringer for my dear friend Gabrielle Paese – there, I’ve said it publicly). Giada uses pine nuts, but, in addition to having a staff, she has a budget and I don’t, so I use walnuts — a less expensive alternative.
Interesting thing I learned from my investigations is that the “broccoli rabe” we get at Restoration Farm is more like “rapini” because it’s all leaves and none of those little heads. Either way, we’re talking about a bitter, zesty green that my friend, Marianne, finds too chewy, but that I actually love for that reason. The fun of this recipe is that the raisins the raisins provide sweet bursts.
So this one’s for you, Farmer Steve!
IMPORTANT – this is a recipe for a small amount of broccoli rabe, which, like so many leafy greens, cooks down to nothing in no time. My recommendation? Triple or quadruple this recipe in order to have a nice fat side serving for four people – only increasing the oil, garlic and red pepper by two.
1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 12-14 oz) cleaned and stems trimmed
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch (1/8 tsp) hot red pepper flakes
1/4 Cup raisins
Salt to taste
1/4 cup roasted walnuts*, broken up
Have a bowl of ice water ready And be ready to reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid. Place broccoli rabe in a pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes until bright green and slightly wilted. Reserve ½ cup cooking liquid. Drain and put greens in ice bath to stop cooking.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat olive oil until fragrant and liquid and add garlic. Cook for 1 minute and add pinch of pepper flakes. Add broccoli rabe and stir to coat. Add raisin and reserved cooking liquid and cook at medium until broccoli is fairly tender and raisins are plumped up (5-10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste and walnuts and serve.
*To toast walnuts, simply toss them into a hot pan and stir until they are fragrant and warm, but not burned. Cool while you prepare the rest of the dish.