Thursday, September 06, 2007

Broccoli Rabbe

The first time I tasted broccoli rabbe, I thought for certain I'd been poisoned. Being young and having eaten a typical American diet I was accustomed to foods being either sweet or salty-I had no reference for bitterness. It is much the same story with Seville oranges, chicory, dark chocolate and radicchio. They truly are acquired tastes. Thankfully, I've acquired them.

I made pizzas tonight from a mixture of white and wheat flours in the dough and cooked broccoli rabbe as a topping. Stop wincing and scrunching-up your nose. It was a white pizza with the olive oil from the cooked rabbe providing the base. For cheese I used a mixture of Gruyere, Parmesan, and pecorino Romano. A few black and green olives and roasted red pepper filled it out with some thinly sliced red onion. I had my doubts whether the rabbe would work with pizza but it was excellent. Broccoli rabbe should be green and the florets should be free of yellow or flowers. The leaves should be firm and springy.

I'll skip posting a pizza recipe and instead focus on preparation of broccoli rabbe. There is a certain trick to it, though the techniques are easily learned.

You Will Need:

1 bunch (or two) broccoli rabbe
1 pot salted boiling water
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 shallots, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Blanch the rabbe in boiling salted water for two minutes. Refresh under cold water to preserve colour and drain well. In a pan heat a generous amount (about 3 tablespoons) of olive oil (you'll need more later) and over medium heat, sauté the garlic and shallots. Add the drained rabbe and reduce heat to the upper range of a low setting. Cook until very soft and wilted (20-40 minutes depending on the rabbe). During this time, give it occasional stirs to make certain it is not sticking/burning. Add more oil as needed-this is one recipe where you really do want the vegetables swimming in oil. Don't worry about overcooking it-you can't. The more patient you are, the better the rabbe will mellow and be soft enough for a pizza topping. Or tossed atop pasta.

Adjust salt and pepper and serve warm, cold or as pizza topping.

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