Create a memorable meal with sautéed broccoli rabe
August 9, 2017
What makes a meal memorable?
One evening in New York, I dined at Le Bernadin, arguably one of the best restaurants in New York, if not the world. It was a business dinner hosted by the Japanese investment bank I worked for, attended by high level officers from our firm and an American corporation we hoped to woo into a bond offering.
What I remember, breathless at the experience, was wishing my father who'd worked the night shift at the post office for 40 years, was there to appreciate the meal. All these years later, I can tell you the meal was perfect, but I can't recall what I ate.
My most memorable meal occurred at a small restaurant in an old Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn. I can't recall the name of the restaurant, but I can still conjure the taste of the one dish that to this day is the most unforgettable I've eaten.
It was a side dish of broccoli rabe, bathed in olive oil with copious slivers of garlic tucked among the leaves. Yet the strength of these two ingredients were no match for the spicy bitterness of this succulent green. The taste was so bewitching I would gladly have made a meal of it, soaking up its juices with garlic rolls.
What makes a meal memorable? Perhaps it's the ingredients? The umami tang of fresh oysters suffused with a light vinaigrette, followed by a sip of mineral-rich red wine. Or perhaps it's emotional? That moment when you're working side by side in the kitchen and with a glance at his hands, realize you're in love. In my experience, memorable meals can never be planned. They happen when serendipity exerts its special magic.
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But we can work to summon those moments by cooking often, with good ingredients and a loving heart. I'm off to the kitchen with a bunch of broccoli rabe from this week's CSA box. Let's see what happens next…
Broccoli Rabe Sautéed in Olive Oil and Garlic
Chop the thick stems from the bottom of a bunch of broccoli rabe, about an inch below where the leaf begins. Rinse the greens well, drain but let them remain slightly damp, this will allow the greens to steam when they first hit the pan.
To a large sauté pan over medium heat, add a generous swoosh of extra virgin olive oil. Allow the olive oil to warm, then add the broccoli rabe, and allow it to wilt as you gently stir the greens into the oil. You can add 1-3 cloves of sliced garlic (the amount depends on how much you love garlic) to the pan now. However, the garlic should gently cook with the greens, not fry, you don't want the garlic to brown as this will cause it to become bitter. At this point, you can cover the pan and allow the greens and garlic to cook slowly for a few minutes, allowing their flavors to infuse with the olive oil.
Once the greens are wilted and the stems are tender, about five minutes, taste them and season accordingly with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. If you find the greens too bitter, add a splash of balsamic vinegar, the acidity of the vinegar will cut the bitterness and add a delightful sweetness that is the perfect counterpoint to the bitter greens. Enjoy!
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of "A Map of Heaven." She lives in Breckenridge. Join her at Facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths or SuzanneElizabeths.com.