BROCCOLI RABE (RAPPINI)
Broccoli rabe (rapini) for many, might be an acquired taste. Its in the broccoli family, but bitter, and more leafy, less of the crowns. Its become increasingly popular, you can now see it as a topping for pizza, is excellent with penne pasta or cavatelli, and believe it or not in a sandwich (hey, my Uncle Larry used to take spaghetti sandwiches to the beach). You also often see this served as an appetizer before the pasta. And, you see it as a main course with sausage in many places these days.
For me its comfort food. Its something I didn’t like or understand as a child, but when I was a young adult loved, and now it is comfort food to me. And, the great thing is, its still cheap. As of this writing, $2.50 will get you a pound, but since its mostly water, as with most vegetables, you might only get 2 servings out of it. Still relatively inexpensive.
Andy Boy Brand of California (3rd Generation Italian owned) has always been the only brand I’ve known, its what my mother always bought, its what I see today and even Lidia Bastianich paid a visit to their farm in California in a recent episode. There may be other companies out there, but I can personally vouch for their quality.
Fresh Broccoli Rabe
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt (Pepper Optional)
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Wash the broccoli rabe thoroughly, as it is very sandy, and obviously bad for your teeth if it is not washed properly. Leave it wet, as this will help steam it. In a pot with a cover, add the olive oil and the split cloves of garlic. Be sure to cut the stems off, as they are very chewy, but not all the way. You can also chop it if you like smaller pieces, especially if you are going to toss it in with pasta. Add the wet broccoli rabe and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. The general rule is to never cook any soft vegetable for more than 7 minutes, but it depends on how you like it. I don’t like my vegetables under or overcooked, so 10 minutes should be fine. You can serve alone with grated cheese, or again, penne or cavatelli pasta.
On the Grill… DO NOT cut or chop it, just cut off some of the ends, liberally salt and drench with olive oil. Spread out the bunch and spread and sautee on the grill. Of course, be sure your grill does not have grates that will allow the rappini to fall through. The smokey taste will be especially delicious. No need for garlic in this case, and as for the red pepper flakes, simply use a long hot pepper to grill along side it, chop up and mix together. As you can see, with the right grill, you can easily cook a leafy green like this and not make a mess.
If you don’t have this type of grill, considering buying a mesh grill pan like a Maverick. I got this combination set from OpenSky via Michael Ruhlman’s followings.
If you want to mix this with any type of short pasta (penne, cavatelli, ziti), you probably want to chop the broccoli rabe up into similar size pieces and steam (this will NOT work on the grill). After the pasta is done cooking, add it to the sauce pan with some of the pasta water, add the broccoli rabe and continue cooking for another minute or two, and you can even hit it with an extra dizzle of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and/or fresh grated cheese. Experiment and have fun!