Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gourmet Magazine and Garlicky Broccoli Rabe

When my collection of Gourmet magazines got wet recently, I was so sad to toss them out. I'd saved these magazines over the past ten years, and as I fished out favorite issues that had somehow escaped the dampness, I discovered my all-time favorite issue--The Restaurant Issue from October 2005-- had survived. Maybe it's not worth much on Ebay, but it's a classic issue, not available anywhere.

This issue featured chefs across the country and it highlighted American cuisine. My favorite article was "Life on the Line," by Francis Lam, a chef in culinary school who does an externship at Higgins restaurant in Oregon. Chef Greg Higgins is a champion of sustainable farms and food practices. I know his name because of Ayer's Creek Farm, one of the farm profiles in my cookbook.

Anyway, here's my favorite quote from this story:

"To me the only thing as important as how food tastes is the community it builds. At Higgins, it seemed this went beyond sharing a meal with friends. It meant understanding where the food comes from, supporting farmers and artisans, creating economies of scale."

Simple food for thought. But oddly as I revisited this magazine, I realized I'd never made a recipe from Gourmet.

I was determined to find one recipe in this particular issue and I did--a simple dish made with broccoli rabe.

To find broccoli "rabe" or "raab" head to the farmers' market. Maybe you can find it at a natural foods store, and you might find it labeled "Rapini." I usually look for it in the spring, but tend to lose track of it in the summer when so much produce is available. At Nash's Organic Produce I found a cauliflower rabe (purple) and one that was a Brussels sprout rabe (yellow). The farmers' market is all about flexibility.

I took one of each and planned to use both to make the dish. Then I looked up broccoli raab in Elizabeth Schneider's book From Amaranth to Zucchini where it said, "Even modified, broccoli raab is a bitter blast to a sweet loving American palate."

My kitchen assistant will take one of each--in his dreams!

Blanching reduces the bitter tones of broccoli rabe and the sweet taste of caramelized garlic compliments this fantastic assertive green.
2 pounds broccoli rabe, bottom 2 inches trimmed
8 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Blanch broccoli rabe (whole) in an 8 quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered until tender, about 3 minutes. (The original recipe said 6 minutes but this is way too long for the skinny stalks of broccoli rabe.)
2. Drain and immediately transfer to a pan of ice water to halt cooking. Then drain and chop into 1-inch segments.
3. Cook garlic in a 12-inch skillet over moderate heat until golden, then add broccoli rabe and cook until heated through--about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Don't be tempted to add a squeeze of lemon, it would seriously detract from the sweet garlic tones which really make this dish special.
  • I cooked buckwheat soba noodles for the bottom layer, and sprinkled Massa Organic toasted almonds over the top to make this our main dish for dinner. As you can see above my exuberant kitchen assistant thought the blanched rabe was the main dish and he would have been happy with that.
  • Don't tempt the kitchen assistant with the final version

I saved a few more issues of Gourmet, and maybe I'll find another treasure. I'd definitely make this recipe again and again.

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