CHOPPING BROCCOLI

1broccolirawI was out of town the week before last and came home to a near-empty fridge and a series of dinners that I can’t even recall right now, they were so unmemorable. I think there was a lot of cereal. And plain spaghetti.

This dinner lethargy spilled over into the weekend and again, I stared into a vacant ice box. There were some flour tortillas, a tiny tub of mango and red onion salsa (which I have yet to throw away), a container with leftover red bell pepper tops and bottoms, a depleted box of Maison du Chocolat assorted chocolates, vermouth, and a bag of carrots which are starting to sprout monster roots. Not my finest moment. I did, however, have a drawerful of beautiful broccoli rabe which I was determined to eat my way through this weekend. And I did. All 3.5 pounds of it. If you’re wondering how I didn’t get sick of it, see below for the various interpretations of that brash, biting green (which is a relative of the turnip, and not broccoli, if you were wondering):

SATURDAY: Broccoli rabe “fritto” – inspired by the Zuni Café Cookbook

1 bunch broccoli rabe
2 cups flour (unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat)
1 cup cornmeal
2 cups plain yogurt
vegetable oil
salt & pepper

-In one shallow dish, spread out the flour and cornmeal and combine well. Pour the yogurt into another shallow dish and season generously with salt and pepper.
-Heat about two inches of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
-Meanwhile, one at a time, dunk each stalk of broccoli rabe into the yogurt then coat with the flour mix. Lay the coated broccoli on a baking rack.
2coatedOnce all the broccoli rabe is coated, fry until golden in the hot oil. Make sure the broccoli bubbles somewhat violently when you place it in the oil: if you try in cool oil you’ll have a wilted, soggy mess. Also, don’t overcrowd the pan.
Transfer the fried broccoli rabe to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt.
Serve.

3friedSUNDAY: Broccoli rabe with toasted bulgur wheat and dates

1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups water
olive oil
1/3 cup dried dates, chopped
1 bunch broccoli rabe
2 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
anchovy fillets (optional)

-Set water to boil in a large pot.
-Separately, in a small saucepan, start the wheat. Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bulgur wheat and cook, stirring, until deep golden and toasty. Add dates, 1 teaspoon salt, a few generous grindings of pepper, and water. Boil until the wheat’s surface is visible, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
-Cook broccoli rabe in boiling water with 1 tablespoon salt until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, run under cold water until cool enough to handle, drain again, and transfer to a cutting board. Coarsely chop broccoli rabe.
-Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and sauté until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
-Serve broccoli rabe atop bulgur wheat. Top wih anchovy fillet.

4withdatesMONDAY: Broccoli rabe, bacon, and cannellini bean pasta
5bacon

2 strips good bacon
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained
1 bunch about 12 oz. broccoli rabe
8 oz. angel hair / cappellini pasta

-Set water plus 1 tablespoon salt to boil in a large pot.
-Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until bacon is cooked through. If bacon begins to burn, lower the heat.
-Cook broccoli rabe in boiling water until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not drain water: transfer broccoli rabe with tongs to colander set over large bowl. Run broccoli rabe under cold water until cool enough to handle, drain again, and transfer to a cutting board. Coarsely chop broccoli rabe.
-Add cannellini beans to bacon skillet and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
-Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of cooking water, then drain pasta and return to pot. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, reserved water, and broccoli rabe mixture. Toss to coat and serve with grated parmesan.

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