Saturday, April 2, 2011

Southern Italian Broccoli Rabe with Wheat Berries

 Broccoli Rabe, also known as rapini, is such a great vegetable. It's used primarily in Italian cooking, namely southern Italy. It's a pungent and bitter green with tough sweet stems, giving it so much character. It doesn't taste like broccoli at all really, even though it resembles it with its small florets. As with all leafy greens, it's incredibly high in vitamins, especially vitamin C.

I also wanted to say a quick word on cooking broccoli rabe. Since the stems are tough and cook much slower than the delicate leaves, I find that blanching it is the way to go to get perfectly cooked broccoli rabe. I hardly ever blanch my vegetables because I'm worried about nutrients I'm losing in that boiling water, but in this case, quickly blanching the broccoli rabe really makes it have the perfect texture. First, cut off about two inches of the tough fibrous stems off. To blanch, all you need to do is bring a pot full of water to a boil. Turn the heat off and immediately add the greens. Submerge the greens in the boiling water for literally 10 seconds (sometimes I do it for less). The greens will magically turn a beautiful vibrant green color. Then, submerge the greens in a bowl of cold water, or sometimes I even strain the greens and rinse them under super cold water briefly. Basically, you're "shocking" the greens, stopping the cooking process, and preserving the green color and texture. For extra flavor, I briefly saute the blanched greens in olive oil and garlic. Perfection right there.

The measurements in this particular recipe are not exact. I just used what I had on hand, like olives, roasted red peppers, and roasted tomatoes to make a nice southern Italian nourishing meal. You can certainly make this with whole wheat pasta instead of the wheat berries and I suspect chickpeas would be great in this, as well. And I'm sure Parmesan cheese shavings would be wonderful, too.

Broccoli Rabe with Wheat Berries
2 cups cooked wheat berries (for instructions on how to cook them, check out the bottom of this recipe)
1 cup cooked white beans
1/2 lb broccoli rabe, blanched (see above for instructions)
2 cloves garlic, minced
olives, chopped
roasted or sun dried tomatoes, chopped
small roasted red pepper, chopped
crushed red pepper flakes
fresh basil (if you have it)
sea salt
olive oil

Start by sauteeing the blanched broccoli rabe very briefly in garlic and oil. Add some crushed red pepper flakes, sea salt, chopped olives, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and some torn basil leaves. Add the wheat berries and beans and stir to combine. May be served warm or cold, as a salad.