Recently, several friends, all foodies par excellence, couldn't wait to tell me about a dish they had sampled while traveling along Italy's Amalfi coast. One day they had indulged in a huge lunch that included fritto misto (mixed fried food), lasagna and a cornucopia of grilled meats, but they were most excited about a simple creation prepared with broccoli rabe.
Also known as rapini, broccoli rabe has slim stalks (not thick ones like traditional broccoli) with dark green leaves and small buds that resemble miniature broccoli florets. When cooked, its flavor is slightly but pleasingly bitter.
Italy has a long tradition of using broccoli rabe inventively, so I was not surprised by my friends' enthusiasm. They had taken notes, explaining that the cooked leafy greens had been combined with olives, capers and pine nuts, and were hopeful that I might be able to duplicate the recipe. Hearing this description and being a fan of this delicious vegetable, I was happy to help out.
Broccoli rabe is available in the produce section of many grocery stores, usually nestled in with other greens such as kale, collards and escarole. If you haven't discovered it already, the accompanying recipe would be a delectable introduction.
Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.
BROCCOLI RABE WITH KALAMATAS, CAPERS AND PINE NUTS
1 large bunch broccoli rabe, (about 1 pound), washed
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste (divided use)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (divided use)(see note)
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, slivered
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Trim and discard all but about 1/2 inch from the stems of the broccoli rabe. Then slice the broccoli rabe, crosswise, into 1-inch-wide strips.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add 2 teaspoons salt. Drop the broccoli rabe into water and let water come back to a boil. Boil until the greens are wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the broccoli rabe and pat dry.
Add olive oil to a large, heavy skillet set over medium heat, and when it is hot, add the garlic slices. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is just golden, only about 1 minute. Watch carefully so that the garlic does not burn. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon.
Raise the heat to medium-high and add the broccoli rabe to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the greens are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Return the garlic to the pan along with half of the pine nuts and all of the olives, capers and red-pepper flakes. Saute, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Season the greens with 1/2 teaspoon or more salt. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with remaining pine nuts.
Note: Spread the pine nuts in a single layer in a pie plate and toast in a preheated, 300-degree oven until they are golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Watch carefully because they burn easily. Remove and cool.
Per serving: 232 calories, 5 grams protein, 21 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 11 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 1,576 milligrams sodium
Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.