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Before I left behind the ice and snow for a road trip to Florida with a friend, I found this column for you to enjoy. I wrote it in 2004 for my former Second Helpings newsletter. I’ll return this week in time for the annual Lauren Braman Memorial Chili Cook-Off Saturday (Feb. 28) at Copley High School. Join me from 6 to 9 p.m. to taste a dozen or more chilies plus desserts. Proceeds are earmarked for programs for teen-agers in the oncology unit at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Over the years, bunch after bunch of rapini made its way home from the store, into my refrigerator and eventually into the garbage. I didn’t know what to do with it, but ever the optimist, I kept buying.
Now I know. Several times recently I have made rapini with potatoes and garlic. It is a wonderful side dish. The buttery yellow potatoes absorb the garlic flavor and offset the slight bitterness of the rapini.
Make no mistake: rapini – also called broccoli rabe – is a bitter vegetable. That is its charm. Like arugula, it assaults the palate.
Italian cuisine in particular seems to have a thing for pairing bitter with unctuous, each flavor heightened by the presence of the opposite.
Rapini is sold in most grocery stores. It looks like broccoli that never matured – lots of leaves with a few scraggly broccoli crowns. You eat both the leaves and crown, along with the stalk.
I found this recipe in “Umbria” by Julia Della Croce, a cookbook I’ve been dipping into. I like that the rapini and potatoes may be cooked in advance, then finished just before serving – not that I’ve been organized enough to do it. But, ever the optimist, I keep hoping.
SAUTEED RAPINI WITH POTATOES
• 2 Yukon Gold potatoes
• 1 1/2 lbs. rapini (broccoli rabe)
• 1 tbsp. sea salt
• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
Scrub potatoes and cover with cold water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender but not falling apart. Peel, cut in quarters lengthwise, then cut crosswise into medium-thin slices.
Peel skin from the tough lower stalks of the rapini and trim the ends. Cut crosswise into 3-inch lengths. Place in a large pot of boiling water, add the sea salt and cook until the stalks are tender but not soft, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking liquid.
In a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil and garlic over low heat until the garlic is soft but not colored, about 5 minutes. Raise heat to medium and add greens and potatoes. Stir well, then raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. If too dry, add a bit of the cooking liquid. Makes 4 servings.
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