Does this look sort of disgusting? It does to me, but it's actually quite good. It's rapini (or brocolli raab or brocolli di rape depending on I don't know what -- it's a vegetable with a lot of aliases) and chick peas. Yesterday, I went to visit my parents and made it for them for lunch.
I've been a big fan of rapini for a while. In fact, for a time I was making it so frequently that Mike asked me to cut back. I think it was after I served rapini sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes on slices of french bread when we had some people over for dinner -- my own version of rapini bruschetta. I liked it a lot but as I remember everyone else was pretty lukewarm on it. Mike refers to rapini as "bitter greens" and he says bitter in this thin sort of Katharine Hepburn-ish voice emphasizing the "t" sound whenever he says it. So now whenever I talk about rapini with him I also refer to it as bitter greens -- and when I say talk about rapini with him I don't want to leave you with the impression that we have long discussions about rapini. By talking about it I mean a conversation like this:
Me: "I'm thinking bitter greens and pasta for dinner tonight."
Now that I'm serving it less frequently he seems to be more accepting of rapini.
My usual way to serve it is with pasta. When I first started serving it, I chopped it up and I sauteed it in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes and then tossed it with capellini, my favorite pasta. Occassionally it was not just bitter it was BITTER and the stems were sometimes a little on the tough side. Then I read that blanching it first would remove some of the bitterness which I thought might also be an answer to the problem of the stems. It was. I have since seen directions for peeling the stems but I have not yet tried that.
I can't remember in which cookbook I originally read the recipe for chick peas and rapini and I can't seem to find it. The original recipe I used called for 1/2 cup chicken stock. I have since seen a simpler recipe in Marcella Says in which Marcella Hazan says to first cook the rapini in boiling water for 15 minutes. She is also of the stem peeling school. But she doesn't use chicken stock and lately I haven't been either.
I have made rapini and chick peas for my parents several times in the past year and it's always been a big hit, particularly with my mother. She had three helpings yesterday and I can't imagine too many things that are healthier -- lots of fiber, vitamins, and various trace elements.
Rapini and Chick Peas
1 bunch of rapini
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Red pepper flakes to taste (I use about two good pinches)
2 15-oz cans of chick peas
Bring 3 quarts of water to boil
Rinse the rapini and cut the bottom inch off the stems.
Separate the tops and the bottom leaves from the thick stems. Chop the stems in one inch pieces.
When the water boils, add about a teaspoon of salt to the water and then add the stems. After one minute, add the rapini tops and leaves. Let this cook for two minutes and then drain.
In a skillet or sauté pan with a top (I use a 12” iron skillet), add olive oil and garlic over medium – high heat
When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the red pepper flakes
Cook stirring for about 30 seconds and then add the rapini.
Continue to cook stirring for several minutes
Add the chick peas, salt to taste, turn the heat down to a simmer and cover.
Cook for additional 10 or 15 minutes.
It's a wholesome and satisfying meal and it's pretty fast to fix. I don't always separate the stems and the tops. It depends on how much of a hurry I am in. Yesterday I did not but I think it's a little better when I do. Also yesterday, with the Marcella Hazan recipe in mind I blanched the rapini a little longer than I usually do, probably about four or five minutes. It was also a pretty large mass of rapini, so it held the heat more, and it cooked more as it was draining than usual. My mother told me she preferred it less cooked and I do also. I can't imagine cooking it for 15 minutes before you saute it but if that's what Marcella does... well she can keep right on doing it but I'm not going to.
Special bonus: this tastes even better the next day.