Thursday, April 30, 2009
Out Of The Blue
Imagine my surprise this weekend, when after months of dedication to visiting the farmer's market (despite repeated disappointment), I came across something I'd been looking for all year. For some reason, this winter season was a surprisingly barren one, at least where local produce was concerned, and although I visited the market nearly every week, I never found the hearty winter greens that I'd seen in previous years. This weekend however, well into spring and on the hottest day of the year (at the time), I finally came across what I'd been seeking for five very cold months. Miraculously hidden amongst the new spring vegetation were fall and winter veggies. Like my own culinary "Where's Waldo?", I ran from stall to stall picking apart each box and display until I uncovered the welcome surprise of everything from kale and lettuces to spinach and broccoli rabe. I filled my canvas bag to the brim and happily toted home my long awaited purchases.
It wasn't until I got home that I realized how rusty I was. All these months on the bench had left me without any innovative ideas for my new ingredients. Well, except for the kale which will now and forever be used to make crispy kale chips, the culinary discovery of the year (at least at my house). So, I put my game face on and started doing some serious foodie research. I love simply sauteed broccoli rabe as much as the next girl, but it was time to add some kind of a twist. It turns out people don't seem to actually do much with these little guys but toss them in pasta, so I was in a bit of a quandary. Finally I saw a recipe that included them in a pasta dish with a spicy anchovy sauce, so I decided to eliminate the pasta and apply the sauce directly to the veg. I love salty, bitter goodness, and this recipe was a perfect combination of both--a good heap of bitterness from the broccoli rabe (also called rapini) and delicious salty bite from the anchovies. But don't be afraid, they're not overpowering and are even a bit difficult to identify specifically.
It's actually quite the easy side dish, since all you need to do is blanch the broccoli rabe and dissolve all of the sauce ingredients in a non-stick pan. It's important to remember however that the broccoli rabe needs to be dried thoroughly before it's added to the sauce. My first go round had too much residual moisture and led to a super soggy and watery sauce (there was definitely no identifying the anchovies there). So for my second try, I made sure to dry them and let the bunches sit on a bed of paper towels to catch any extra water that may have been clinging on to the greens. As for the sauce's flavor, it's easy to up the heat ante, or leave it out entirely. I like spicy, garlicky broccoli rabe, so I put in a good helping of both garlic and red pepper flake. This would be great with butter as well, but I'm trying to eat on the slightly lighter side, so I went with only extra virgin olive oil, but a nice olive oil/butter combination would be super tasty, and definitely something I'd consider if I were to cook for company. I also added a few tablespoons of capers for an extra hit of sour pucker. Again, it'd be just as tasty without this, so if you want a slightly milder flavor, leaving these out would be a perfectly justifiable move. Here's my final recipe, alter it at your own will.
Broccoli Rabe With Spicy Anchovy Caper Sauce
1 bunch (about a pound) broccoli rabe
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tin anchovies (rinsed and drained)
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 tsp red pepper flake (or more for very spicy)
3 tsp capers
freshly cracked pepper
1. Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and blanch broccoli rabe until tender-crisp (about 5 minutes). Remove from water and dry well. Place on a bed of paper towels to remove any excess moisture.
2. Meanwhile, combine olive oil, garlic, anchovies and red pepper flake in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook until anchovies are dissolved and garlic is fragrant. Add capers and dried broccoli rabe and toss to coat. Cook together for 1 minute and serve. Enjoy!