It has SO been winter here up in the Northeast with winds, snow, blizzards, tree damage, loss of electricity and heat! All sufferings aside as a result of Winter’s wrath, we also experience the beauty of this season, when all vegetation is nestled under a blanket of white, and we can hardly remember the colors of summer..vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruits that delight the eye, and tease the senses and the tongue, fresh from nature’s fields, woodland or gardens.
It is precisely this time of year, after warming soups, and sturdy grains, that many of us start to long for the taste of Greens. Often, salads are not exactly what we crave, many of them being cold in temperature themselves, but still..that emerging deep hunger for green things can be compelling as we wrap ourselves to stay warm, but miss the verdancy and energy of GREEN..dark, rich and energizing within winter’s color palette of brown, black, grey and white.
ENTER the COOKING GREENS such as Kale, Collards and Broccoli Rappini (Rabbe). I often at this time have a particular craving for Broccoli Rappini because of it slightly bitter flavor..a flavor that is is an important part of our digestive process, triggering inner digestive juices that both cleanse us, break down the nutrients of our food and disperse them throughout our body. Altho Broccoli Rappini actually a member of the Brassica family of plants it, in flavor and appearance , resembles its cousin in the mustard plant groupings which accounts for it peppery bitterness.
For this recipe in winter, I must depend on the commercial variety of Rappini in the supermarkets which are delicious of course, but in summer when I garden, I prefer to raise Italian varieties of wild and garden Rappis, especially from Franchi Seeds. They are thinner stemmed, and quite hot and slightly more bitter than the commercial varieties…and it takes more of it to make a supper! But it is well worth trying and comparing if you have a garden yourselves.
This is a wonderful supper in a bowl any time of the year…but especially sustaining in this cold season when you have just about had it with shoveling snow, and trying to stay upright on ice-laden walks. I will give alternate hints for including meat and using pasta instead of potatoes.
Please be aware when buying the commercial variety of Rappini in the supermarkets, that especially in those shelved vegetable sections that are constantly sprayed with water and mist, that Rappini deteriorates quickly and will turn yellow and rot. I truly do not like this use of spraying vegetables on the shelves…it cause the plants to spoil, AND unless you shake your purchase vigorously..you are paying for the extra weight of the water trapped within the leaves of your product..which of course I am sure is part of the plan of the merchandisers.
Ingredients: (feel free to add and create on your own, substituting as you like. The only thing not variable is the Broccoli Rappini!)
1 commercial bunch of broccoli rappini, 2-3 medium potatoes cooked, chopped and set aside, one small/medium onion diced, 2 cloves garlic diced, 3-4 cocktail or plum tomatoes, seeded and quartered, olive oil, dried basil and dried marjoram, 2-3 chopped canned artichoke hearts, 3-4 deli olives pitted and chopped, a nice soft-style fresh mozzarella cheese (1 thick slice diced in little squares), 2-3 teasp pignoli nuts slightly sauteed, a little canned chicken broth as necessary, a sprinkle of cayenne.
Discard any yellowed leaves. Drain. Chop off dried stem ends. Discard. Chop greens in thirds, put in a deep pan with a little water, and steam until wilted. Drain. In a deep pan or skillet, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until just slightly golden, add chopped rappini, a little salt and pepper, the diced chopped artichoke hearts and a little chicken broth or water. Simmer for a few minutes, add the chopped tomatoes, a pinch of dried basil and a pinch of dried marjoram to taste. Simmer gently for a few minutes, stirring. Add sliced olives. TASTE, taste, taste, and adjust seasonings to please yourself. Keep warm, adding a little more broth if necessary.
Put cooked chopped potatoes in the bottom of a serving bowl. Add chopped mozzarella to the heated broccoli rappini mixture and spoon the mixture over the potatoes. Garnish with the lightly sauteed pignola nuts. Taste and adjust seasonings…a sprinkle of cayenne if desired. ENJOY! A chewy artisan bread and glass of a light red wine is just fine to complete this supper.
*Note: chopped broiled Italian sweet sausage made be added into the mixture if meat is desired. This may also be served over a pasta of choice instead of potatoes. I am going gluten free, so I use a brown rice pasta which is absolutely delicious.
I have just signed up at the local University for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute...which is a program of no homework/no tests college courses for pleasure and leisure for people age 50 and older. I myself am a teacher/speaker/retreat director/workshop presenter by profession, but am excited to take courses on topics that are of interest but that I do not personally teach. One of the courses I have just signed up for is “Conversational Italian” so in the future I may express my Delicioso recipes with some new and musical words, given the lyrical quality of that language ( and the Italian/Mediterranean enthusiasm for much of my style of cooking!).