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:
- 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.
Applying these lessons, this is now one of my favorite vegetables, and yes, it’s one of those Superfoods. I hope you give it a chance — you might be surprised by just how good it can be.
Broccoli Rabe and Baby Potato Sautè
with Garlic and Browned Butter Breadcrumbs
- Make the browned butter bread crumbs by placing day old pieces of bread into the food processor. Whirl it like crazy to make the size of bread crumbs you prefer. Toast up in a toaster oven until just crisp, and set aside while you brown the butter. Melt a chunk of butter over medium high heat. As soon as it’s melted reduce the heat to medium and allow to foam, and ultimately brown. When the butter is a deep nut brown, add the toasted breadcrumbs and coat them well; sauté for a couple of minutes, and store. I keep a stash of these in the freezer at all times.
- If you want to eliminate the anchovies, feel free to substitute kalamata olives or capers.
- 1 bunch of broccoli rabe (about 11 cups when trimmed and chopped)
- ½ yellow onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup small potatoes
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
- 1 -2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, to taste
- 1 tablespoon 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 (see Cook’s Notes)
- 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.
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 KitchenPin It