red chili rapini aglio e olio

red chili rapini aglio e olio

Green Superfoods – especially kale – have been “trending” for a while. Now, it seems like there’s a kale salad on the menu of every restaurant I’ve visited over the past six months. I couldn’t be happier. I LOVE me a plate of Tuscan kale, raw or cooked.

But I’m thinking that maybe kale is the gateway green to other dark and mysterious vegetables…….like rapini.

I’ve been familiar with rapini (also called broccoli raab or rabe) since I was a kid, when I knew it as “robbie”. My grandmother would occasionally put a bowl of slow-cooked robbie on the Sunday table. I’m pretty sure I was seriously afraid of it back then. After the long braising, the greens would go very limp and turn dusky, blackish-green, the same texture and color of the seaweed that got tangled in my feet at the beach. Not very appealing to a little girl who was just looking forward to a plate of macaroni and a meatball.

red chili rapini brushetta

In parts of New England and especially in Rhode Island where I grew up, broccoli rabe is still very familiar. It’s on the menu of mom-and-pop Italian delis, generously piled in grinder sandwiches with or without grilled sausage and provolone cheese.

Rapini is classified as a brassica, the same family as cabbage and broccoli, but it’s more closely related to turnip greens than it is to broccoli. When I’m shopping, I look for leaves that are uniformly dark green, with lots of tight little flower buds. Sometimes I find a bunch of rapini with its buds about to open to yellow flowers; a sign that it’s over the hill. I pass it by.

The lower stems can be tough and fibrous; I trim off about a third of the bunch, keeping the thin upper leafy stems and buds. Rapini has a slightly bitter bite, tempered by briefly blanching it in boiling salty water, which also preserves its beautiful emerald green color. I say briefly because unlike the way my mama made it, rapini doesn’t take very long to cook at all.

rapini

After blanching, I like to toss the greens with chili, garlic and olive oil (aglio e olio); they are delicious tossed with pasta, over creamy, cheesy polenta or piled on crusty toasted bread as a bruschetta.

red chili rapini agio e olio polenta and bruschetta

I enjoyed reading my friend Susan from Food Blogga’s post about broccoli rabe – we come from the same neck of RI.

Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for pasta with garlickly broccoli rabe makes me hungry, too.

Red chili rapini with olive oil and garlic

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6

Serve the rapini as a side dish, over creamy polenta, or as a bruschetta on toasted, crusty bread.

Ingredients

1 bunch rapini (broccoli rabe)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 fresh red chili pepper, thinly sliced

Pinch dried red chile flakes

Fresh ground black pepper

Grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese

Instructions

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  2. Trim off the lower, thick stems of the rapini; cut the remaining green leafy tops and buds into smaller pieces, drop into the boiling water and blanch 30 seconds. Drain and gently squeeze out any excess water.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, fresh and dried chili and cook for a minute or so, until sizzling and fragrant (but don't brown the garlic).
  4. Add the rapini to the pan and toss to coat with the garlicky oil. Remove from heat and season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with the pecorino.
  5. Serve as a topping for polenta, pasta, or bruschetta.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/red-chili-rapini-aglio-e-olio/

Pan-Roasted Balsamic Cipolline Onions

Pan-Roasted Cipolline

I look forward to seeing tiny, sweet Italian cippoline onions when they appear during the fall. This is my twist on the traditional bowl of Thanksgiving pearl onions; roasted on the stovetop with a buttery balsamic glaze.

Pan-Roasted Balsamic Cipolline Onions

Ingredients

1 pound cippoline onions

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 sprig thyme or rosemary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Blanch the onions in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes; drain, let cool slightly then slice off the very tops and slip off the skins.
  2. Heat the butter and oil over medium-high in a heavy skillet until the butter melts. Add the onions and cook until they are brown all over, stirring them around occasionally.
  3. Sprinkle the onions with the sugar. Pour over 1/3 cup water and the vinegar. Add the herb spring, cover the pan and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated and the onions are caramelized.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/11/pan-roasted-balsamic-cipolline-onions/

Cauliflower Mascarpone Gratin

Cauliflower Mascarpone Tart

Are you the type of Thanksgiving cook (and/or eater) who expects to sit down to the same lineup of food from year to year or do you like to get a little bit crazy and try something completely new every time?

I’ve learned that there are definitely two distinct – and very personal – approaches to getting the holiday menu together. I recognize one, the tried-and-trues, as the keepers of family traditions; rational, organized, intelligent souls who keep things simple (doable) and predictable (foolproof).  Which makes a lot of sense. How else to organize 10, 20 or more people around a dining table and keep the peace?

I count myself in the other, open-to-experiment camp. While I’ve never ditched the turkey altogether and made fish instead (as Debra did to much disappointment in one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond) I like to play with vegetables and entertain ideas on how to handle the turkey (shall we bone it, brine it, spice it, tie it up and smoke it?).

I’ll be sharing a few of my ideas for vegetable side dishes over the next week, nothing too wild and crazy. But maybe something to mix up the usual suspects.

In the meantime, leave me a note and share your family favorites, old or new.

Cauliflower Mascarpone Gratin

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower, separated into florets

1 tablespoon softened butter

1 8-ounce container Wisconsin Mascarpone cheese

3/4 cup heavy cream

½ cup Wisconsin grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh sage

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly grated black pepper

Instructions

  1. Blanch the cauliflower in a pot of boiling salted water 5 minutes; drain.
  2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 7 x 11 gratin dish with butter; arrange cauliflower in dish.
  3. Stir together Mascarpone, cream, ¼ cup Parmesan,sage, garlic, salt and black pepper to taste until smooth; pour over cauliflower. Sprinkle top with remaining Parmesan.
  4. Bake 30 minutes, or until top is browned and sauce is bubbling. Rest 15 minutes, loosely covered, before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/11/cauliflower-mascarpone-gratin/