Broccoli rabe (aka, "rapini")...
The Motley Monk had never tasted broccoli rabe (aka, "rapini") until Doc and Bea Pedano served it for Sunday dinner years ago. The taste was somewhat bitter but the garlic, onions, red pepper, and some olive oil, of course, gave the dish a great taste.
In the years since, The Motley Monk always orders broccoli rabe if it is on the menu at an Italian restaurant. "Rapini" is especially good served as an hors d'oeuvre accompanied by some fresh Italian bread to sop up the juices and all of the vegetable's vitamins. Even those who "hate" traditional American broccoli should give rapini a try. The Motley Monk says "stop the complaining" and "just get over" the bitter taste; enjoy the depth of flavors as they develop across the palate. Better yet, rapini is also extremely healthy, providing iron and lots of beta carotene.
Broccoli rabe is very easy to make and doesn't take long at all. The key is to purchase really fresh broccoli rabe at the grocery store. It's fresh when the color is dark green with a bluish hue and there are no dark spots growing on the leaves.
The way The Motley Monk prepares broccoli rabe is the following.
First: using a large knife, dice some onion and slice some garlic. Set aside in small bowls.
Second: cut the broccoli rabe into two- to three- inch pieces beginning at the bottom of the stalks. There's absolutely no need to be "neat" about this because broccoli rabe emerges from the cooking process looking a lot like spinach but with small broccoli florets. Wash the broccoli rabe in a salad spinner three times to remove any residual waste. Spin dry the broccoli rabe and place into a large bowl.
The prep work is completed!
Third: now it's time to assemble all of the ingredients. As they are pictured below: vegetable (chicken) stock, rapini, crushed red pepper flakes, sliced garlic, and diced onion. (Mr. Olive was a Christmas gift from The Motley Monk's sister several years ago.)
Fourth: Pour some olive oil into the bottom of a deep pan and heat. When the olive oil shimmers and begins to smell nice, add the onions and garlic and sweat them to release their flavors. Add some salt, fresh ground pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to the onions and garlic.
Fifth: Now it's time to add some rapini. After a few minutes, stir and add some additional rapini. Repeat until all of the rapini has been added and wilted down a bit.
Sixth: add the vegetable (chicken) stock. Stir to mix everything thoroughly.
Seventh: cover the pot, turn the heat to low, and allow the flavors to incorporate. Do not overcook! The broccoli rabe should be cooked slightly al dente. Overcooking broccoli rabe makes it more bitter and mushy.
To serve the broccoli rabe as an hors d'oeuvre, like The Motley Monk does, scoop some out of the pan, place it on the center of a soup bowl, and accompany the broccoli rabe with a nice piece of heated, fresh Italian bread.
Eighth: Enjoy a very good, tasty hors d'oeuvre or side dish!
The question now is: What to do with leftovers?
One of The Motley Monk's friends, Mr. and Mrs. Gehringer's son, Greg, solved that problem about a year or so ago by putting The Motley Monk onto yet another Italian recipe The Motley Monk had never heard about. It's a type of submarine sandwich (out East they call it a "hoagie"), a "Bada Bing." The sandwich is comprised of a fried breaded chicken cutlet and sharp provolone cheese (melted, of course), topped with fresh broccoli rabe, and served on a fresh Italian hoagie roll. Greg introduced The Motley Monk to the bada bing at Primo Hoagies.
The first time The Motley Monk ate a bada bing, he thought the breaded chicken cutlet a bit too much. After all, the 8-inch hoagie roll is bread enough! So, The Motley Monk improvised a bit. Taking two slices of thick-sliced, deli chicken breast and placing them on a microwave-safe plate, The Motley Monk topped the chicken breast with drained leftover broccoli rabe and sliced sharp provolone.
Microwaving the chicken breast, broccoli rabe, and provolone for 30 seconds and, then, letting it sit for a minute before microwaving it again for another 30 seconds seems to warm the broccoli rabe nicely and melt the cheese without "cooking" everything.
Meanwhile, The Motley Monk toasted some homemade English muffin bread from the freezer.
A cooking tip: The Motley Monk makes his own bread, slices it, and packages it in Ziploc bag for storage in the freezer. This way, The Motley Monk always has fresh homemade bread whenever he wants it.
Next comes the assembly process. Using a slotted spatula, lift the heated chicken, rapini, and provolone and allow any water to drain before placing it onto the bread. This keeps the bread from becoming soggy.
That accomplished, slice the bada bing and "mangé mange." A very good sandwich (or hoagie), indeed!
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