Taming Broccoli Rabe

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Broccoli rabe, garlic, potato saute with kalamata olives plus tips for balancing bitterness in dishes.

Broccoli Rabe with Potatoes

Some vegetables are the bad boys of the garden. They polarize; flaunt a “love-me-or-hate-me” attitude; and bully with Superfood promises.

It starts when we’re young. Recently, the 4-year-old son of a friend was completely terrorized by the seemingly harmless broccoli I served at dinner one night. When he realized his mother was going to make him eat it, he was at first inconsolable; then with hardened resolve, spit it out on the table.

Well, it was more of a cross between spit and gag, which took me straight back to my own childhood of throwing food out the window when I thought no one was looking. I later promised him that our home would be a broccoli-free zone for him; we all need a safe harbor.

For me, until recently, it was broccoli rabe, also known under aliases, rapini, raab, and rape. Fooled by the broccoli disguise a number of years ago, I dove in. But at that first bitter bite, I knew I’d been had. It wasn’t broccoli at all, and carefully stayed far away after that. But then I started reading how chefs were taming rabe’s bitterness. Even mainstream Rachael Ray was cooking with it. I had to try again. God forbid Rachael should have one up on me.

That was a year ago. I’ve gone through a lot of rabe since then in search of ingredients and techniques to tame its bitterness. Along the way, I’ve learned some valuable lessons, and thought I’d share my favorites that you can use with other bitter greens as well

A Few Cooking Notes:

Ways to temper rabe’s trademark bitterness:

  • Fats, salt, and acids are great for tempering bitterness. Think bacon, sausage, anchovies, capers, kalamata olives, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, butter, cream, lemon, tomatoes, and vinegars.
  • Blanch in well-salted, hot simmering water. The longer, the better.
  • Mix in some starch. Potatoes, pasta and beans are great partners with bitter greens.
  • Finish with a light touch of heat and smokiness. Garlic, red pepper flakes, and sweet paprika are all winners.

If you want  to eliminate the anchovies, feel free to substitute kalamata olives or capers.

Broccoli Rabe and Baby Potato Sautè

     by Susan Pridmore

     Serves 2 – 4

       Prep Time: 30 minutes

       Cook Time: 45 minutes


Ingredients 

  • 1 bunch of broccoli rabe (about 11 cups when trimmed and chopped)
  • ½ yellow onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup baby potatoes
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced salt-packed anchovies (or substitute kalamata olives)
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons browned butter bread crumbs

Instructions

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Drop in the baby potatoes and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove and set aside. Cut in half when cool enough to handle. Keep the water simmering.

Trim the bottoms of the broccoli rabe stalks and chop into 2-inch lengths. Drop the rabe into the water you used to cook the potatoes, and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, or until just tender. Drain in a colander and spray with cold water. Press the rabe into the colander to try to remove as much water as possible. Finish by rolling the rabe up in a towel and squeezing out the last bit of water. Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, over medium heat, sauté the onion until soft and golden. Add the halved potatoes. Sauté for 1 minute, just to reheat them. Add the rabe and toss in the pan to mix well. Add the lemon juice, sweet paprika, salt and vinegar.

Heat the butter in a small pan over low heat. Add the anchovies and a pinch of crushed red peppers. Sauté for a couple of minutes, stirring as the anchovies melt into the butter. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for another minute. Add half of the browned butter bread crumbs.

Add the anchovy mixture to the rabe and toss to coat. Correct for seasoning and top with remaining browned butter breadcrumbs when served.

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Other recipes for broccoli rabe you might like:

Broccoli Rabe, Potato and Rosemary Pizza by TasteFood

Broccoli Rabe and Cornbread Strata by Yummy Supper

Gemelli with Rapini, Sausage and Raisins by Oui Chef

Broccoli Rabe and Cannelini Bean Soup with Basil by She’s in the Kitchen

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Comments

    • says

      I’m with you, Liz. I made these about 2 or 3 weeks ago and am using them now for so many things. I think I’ll post the recipe separate for it and add it to my pantry so I can refer to it in future posts. They are, hands down, the best breadcrumbs I’ve ever had.

  1. says

    I heard all the starving children stories too. And then my folks, tired of sitting at the table urging me to eat one more bite, would leave the room telling me I had to sit there until I finished. That’s when I started throwing it out the window. I got caught when I did that with a pork chop, bone and all, and my mother didn’t believe for a minute that I’d eaten the bone too :-) The dogs in the neighborhood must have loved our house. I love this recipe, but I must be honest that none of my grandchildren have indicated any interest in it…

  2. Bevi says

    I had a terrific rabe at the Tonga Room, of all places. Blanched and then served atop a citrus/sesame/crushed red pepper sauce. This recipe looks great and I will try it soon!

    • says

      How funny – I was in SF having dinner with some friends and they were just talking about the Tonga Room. I haven’t heard about it in forever, and now twice in 24 hours! Blanched on top of citrus/sesame/crushed red pepper sauce sounds amazing. Really, really amazing. Would love to hear what you think if you make this one!

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