Monday, April 9, 2012

Broccoli Rabe with Mozzarella Crema

I used to hate broccoli rabe.  Actually, I used to hate all bitter greens.  Hate is pretty strong - let's just say I disliked them.  I disliked all bitter greens.  I just couldn't understand why anyone would want to eat them when there are so many other more palatable options.  But I kept trying them and trying them and trying them because I have this thing about wanting to like good food.  If someone says it's good, I want to like it too.  And then one day I tried a pizza with sausage and broccoli rabe at Keste and surprisingly, I really liked it.  I'm still somewhat particular about broccoli rabe - simple sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic and evoo just doesn't do it for me.  I need some crushed red pepper flakes or some red wine vinegar, or something else to amp up the flavor and counteract some of the bitterness.  But anytime you combine it with Italian sausage I find that I really enjoy it (granted, a lot of vegetables are probably better with a little sausage).  But most of the broccoli rabe I buy comes straight from the grocery store so I acknowledge that I haven't been eating broccoli rabe at its best.  This past Saturday I saw some broccoli rabe at the farmers' market that just looked so beautiful.  I had to buy it.  The stalks were smaller and the leaves were more tender.  I knew it was going to be delicious.  So I decided to try to find a simpler way to prepare it where the flavor of the broccoli rabe wouldn't be masked too much by sausage.  After a little hunting through various cookbooks, I narrowed it down to two different Mario Batali recipes, this recipe and another recipe for Braised Broccoli Rabe in the Style of Puglia.  Once we realized that we didn't have black olives, this recipe was the only one left standing.

I enjoyed the broccoli rabe. It was incredibly simple and fresh.  You didn't get a ton of flavor from the mozzarella, but mozzarella isn't exactly a pungent cheese.  I tasted the nice grassy evoo we used more than I tasted the mozzarella, but the mozzarella did lend the dish a certain level of creaminess.  And I think the simplicity of the dish worked really nicely with the young, tender broccoli rabe.  If we had been using older broccoli rabe I think the bitterness of the green would have totally overpowered the mozzarella crema and the dish would have been far less enjoyable.  In Alex's opinion the broccoli rabe was just "fine" (which I knew he was going to say), but I like broccoli rabe a lot more than he does.

Recipe after the jump!

Broccoli Rabe with Mozzarella Crema
Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking
By Mario Batali and Mark Ladner

2 pounds broccoli rabe, stems trimmed
Coarse salt
3 oz fresh mozzarella, preferably with some of its brine
1/4 cup evoo
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons salt and return to a boil. Add broccoli rabe and cook until crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes (our broccoli rabe was from the farmers' market asn was really tender already so we just cooked for 4 minutes). Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water to stop cooking; drain well.

Coarsely chop broccoli rabe; transfer to a serving bowl.

Place mozzarella in a small bowl. Using a whisk, coarsely mash the mozzarella. Whisk in 2 tablespoons reserved brine or warm water. Slowly add olive oil, whisking until emulsified. Spoon over broccoli rabe; serve.

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