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A Jolt of Green: Bravo for Broccoli Rabe

Rural Intelligence FoodI’m surprised—happily so—whenever I find broccoli rabe, also know as rapini, on a menu. Whether in a restaurant or a friend’s home, I always feel like my host and I have a shared secret, because I can’t believe how few people appreciate—or have even ever tried—this delicious, sophisticated, nutritious green, which is common in southern Italian cooking. The vegetable’s bitter taste and relative rarity seem to have kept it from being embraced in the United States, and what a loss! High in Vitamins A, C and K, rich in minerals, full of fiber and even a bit of protein, broccoli rabe is supremely healthful. Indeed, it is bitter, but in a savory, seductive way that makes the vegetable a great complement to meat or fish.

Inspired by a delicious jarred rapini condimento I found at Olde Hudson (the lovely specialty foods and housewares store on Warren Street in Hudson) I decided to concoct a homemade version. This is akin to a traditional pesto, but with capers and anchovies in the mix, it is also influenced by salsa verde, one of my other favorite summer staples. I like to eat this sauce on the side with a grilled chicken breast or halibut baked in parchment paper. It’s great as an appetizer on crackers or grilled bread, and is terrific tossed with pasta, whether by itself, or with a bit of ricotta added. This time of year, it adds a much needed jolt of bright green to the plate.— Paige Orloff

Rapini Pesto
Serves 4 or more

The process here is hardly more complicated than a basil pesto. The only additional step is the blanching of the rapini, which makes it tender enough to purée, and keeps the color a vibrant green.

1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed and trimmed of about 1-1/2 inches of the tough ends of the stems
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
2 anchoves, preferably salt-packed
1/3 cup walnuts
juice of one lemon
1/2- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
dried red pepper flakes
coarse salt

Bring a very large pot (like a large pasta pot) of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until just tender, about three minutes.
Drain, and plunge into a large bowl of ice water to cool. Once completely cool (it will happen quickly), drain again.
Place into dish towel or (sturdy) paper towels and wrap tightly in the towel to squeeze out as much water as possible.
Place the rapini into the bowl of a food processor and add the garlic, capers, anchovies and walnuts. Process until relatively smooth.
Add the lemon juice and incorporate. Then pour the olive oil into the processor through the feed tube, with the motor running. (The amount of olive oil you use is up to you—more oil makes a slightly thinner consistency and softens the bitterness a bit.)
Season to taste with salt and red pepper—I like about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt, and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.
Keeps a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 01/07/09 at 04:21 AM • Permalink