alibi online

Free Will AstrologyAlibi's Personals
 
 V.14 No.4 | January 27 - February 2, 2005 

Know Your Ingredients

The Rape of Broccoli

and the birth of canola oil

A bouquet of broccoli rabe
A bouquet of broccoli rabe

Pretty much every morning, our editor pops into my office, lifts a cheek to fart, asks me why I haven't yet cleared out my desk, then crawls around on all fours with a stuffed bunny in his mouth, trying to engage my terrier in a tug of war. But one morning this week, Dear Leader also presented me with a test of my professional qualifications.

"What's a canola?" he asked, his teeth clenching the bunny's dirty ear. I immediately thought he meant cannula (a tube for insertion into body cavities or ducts, primarily for draining fluids etc.) and replied that I thought it would make a fine name for his death metal band. But no, he was asking about canola, as in canola oil, and I had to admit I didn't know.

(OK, I probably wrote a big story about this four years ago, but I smoked hella weed in college, and I can't remember the name of my most recent ex-boyfriend, much less if I've ever written about rapeseed oil. So humor me if this is a refresher for you loyal readers.)

Where was I? Oh yeah, that's what canola oil is made from, rape seeds. Who can guess why the Canadian seed-oil industry decided to make up a new name for rapeseed oil? Before our northern neighbors came up with the name canola, the stuff was known as low erucic acid rapeseed or LEAR oil. Apparently, they had to breed a kind of ... uh ... rape plant which produced oil with lower levels of the carcinogenic erucic acid and blah blah blah science stuff blah blah blah blah. The point is, in the '80s, the FDA decided to allow the name change and it's been canola ever since.

But on to what you really want to know: Rape is a vegetable and you've probably never eaten it. I've seen it a few times at natural foods stores, where I think it was labeled rapini. (Ah, that's better, isn't it? Doesn't sound so violent when you give it a little Italian twist.) Like a member of a notorious mob family, rapini has several other aliases, including brocoletti di rape, and the more common broccoli rabe.

A long, leafy stalk studded with small, broccoli-like clusters, broccoli rabe has close ties to the the cabbage and turnip families. You know how if you look close enough at broccoli, each of those tiny florets starts to look like a little Brussels sprout. And when you look at Brussels sprouts, they totally look like heads of regular old cabbage? They all look like little flowers, and indeed broccoli rabe will bloom with little yellow flowers if you let it. I don't see how the turnip connection makes any sense at all.

The flavor of broccoli rabe is something of an acquired taste. The thing is, it's bitter. You know how the Italians love weird, bitter things like Campari? Well they love rapini. Many greens are slightly bitter, though, so if you love mustard greens, collards, kale and chard, then you're a good candidate for brocoletti di rape.

Still, this leafy green is barely edible when raw and has to be cooked just right in order to not taste terrible. To make the most of your rape, you'll need to master the techniques of blanching, shocking and jumping. In other words, you'll want to briefly boil the greens to cook them most of the way and remove bitterness, quickly stop that cooking process, then sauté them to add flavor.

Blanching is a handy way of half-cooking vegetables that you plan to cook again later. The technique is useful when you want to sauté a bunch of vegetables together, but one of them takes way longer to cook. (You know, like when you're stirfrying carrots and onions, but the onions burn before the carrots even start to brown.) Blanching is also a great way to lightly cook vegetables you want to serve not-quite-raw for a salad or vegetable platter.

To blanch, take your rapini (or green beans, broccoli, asparagus, you name it) and drop it into a big pot of boiling water. (Doing a whole head of broccoli? Save yourself the hassle and don't cut it up first. Blanching a bunch of asparagus? Leave the rubber band on, trim the ends and plunge the bundle in whole.) Watch as the the color intensifies to a deep, bright green. Depending on their thickness, it should only take a minute or two for the stalks to cook most of the way through. Pull one out with your tongs to check; you're looking for the vegetable to be softened slightly. When it's ready, gather the raab with tongs and pull the stalks out, or pour them into a colander.

(Incidentally, here's another technique you can use if you want to cook something ever so slightly, or if you're dealing with something very delicate like spinach. Put the veggies in a colander and simply pour boiling water over them. Ta da! Partly partly-cooked.)

Then, immediately plunge the hot veggies into a big bowl of ice water. This is "shocking." Ice water stops the cooking process quickly so that your lovely rapini doesn't dissolve into a pile of slimy green poop. Let blanched veggies sit in ice water until they're completely cool. Pat them dry with paper towels. They can now be wrapped in the paper towels, zippered into a storage bag and refrigerated for a few days. Or you can get it over with and jump them right away.

Sauté is a French word that means "to jump." If you get a frying pan (also known as a sauté pan) fairly hot, pour in a little bit of fat (say, bacon grease?), and then toss in chopped vegetables, the heat and grease will cause them to jump around in the pan. Sort of. (Oh well, you know the French. Always so dramatic.) The simplest thing to do here would be to heat up a little butter or olive oil, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and a few dashes of red chile flakes. Wait until the garlic is softened but don't burn it! Then add your blanched (but patted dry) broccoli rabe and toss it around. Sprinkle kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper over the pan and serve alongside your pork chop and sweet potato.

Otherwise, you can try this dish recommended by Andy Boy, the best known American grower of rapini.

Broccoli Rabe-stuffed Cannelloni

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 box cannelloni pasta

1 bunch broccoli rabe, blanched and chopped

1 pound mascarpone cheese

1/2 pound Parmesan cheese

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped shallot

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Red pepper flakes

1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

2 red bell peppers, grilled or charred on a gas burner

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1/2 teaspoon thyme

2 cups cream

1 tablespoon butter

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°.

2) Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a pot and add 1 tablespoon salt. Cook pasta until done but firm.

3) In medium pan, sauté garlic, shallots, chile flakes and broccoli rabe for 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and let cool. I

4) In a large bowl, combine cheeses and egg yolk. Add broccoli rabe and stir to combine.

5) Stuff cannelloni pasta with broccoli rabe mixture and place in ovenproof dish.

6) For the sauce, remove seeds from grilled peppers and finely chop them. In a saucepan, add chopped peppers, shallots, thyme and cream, bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Add butter and season.

7) Cover cannelloni with sauce, top with grated cheese and bake 15-20 minutes or until golden.

Join our mailing list for exclusive info, the week's events and free stuff!
 

  • Select sidebar boxes to add below. You can also click and drag to rearrange the boxes; close using the little X icons on each box. To re-add a box you closed, return to this menu.
  • Because you are not logged in, any changes you make to these boxes will vanish as soon as you click to another page. If you log in, the boxes will stick.
  • alibi.com
  • Latest Posts
  • Web Exclusives
  • Recent Rocksquawk Discussions
  • Recent Classifieds
  • Latest User Posts
  • Most Active Users
  • Most Active Stories
  • Calendar Comments
  • Upcoming Alibi Picks
  • Albuquerque
  • Duke City Fix
  • Albuquerque Beer Scene
  • What's Wrong With This Picture?
  • Reddit Albuquerque
  • ABQ Journal Metro
  • ABQrising
  • ABQ Journal Latest News
  • Del.icio.us Albuquerque
  • NM and the West
  • New Mexico FBIHOP
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • Only in New Mexico
  • Mario Burgos
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • High Country News
  • El Grito
  • NM Politics with Joe Monahan
  • Stephen W. Terrell's Web Log
  • The Net Is Vast and Infinite
  • Slashdot
  • Freedom to Tinker
  • Is there a feed that should be on this list? Tell us about it.