Friday, April 27, 2007

Wintered-Over Broccoli Rabe & Anchovies with Fusilli

“First Greens!” said the sign at the Migliorelli Farm greenmarket stand. I dived upon the twine-wrapped bundles of rabe like a woman gone mad. Wintered-over broccoli rabe is one of the first true gifts of spring. As the soil thaws and the weather turns mild, last year’s fields send up shoots.

These plants, which farmers consider “wild,” are milder and sweeter than the bitter, planted rabe we buy later in the year. When raw, the leaves have a verdant, earthy flavor - lots of minerals and a substantial texture from braving the early-spring elements.

Italians make a pasta dish with broccoli and anchovies, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to treat ourselves. When the anchovies hit the oil, a great plume of fishiness will rise up - don’t let this worry you. Most American palates shy away from oily fish, but, as the anchovies cook, they melt away into the perfect saline companion to the rabe.

This is almost too simple to be a recipe, but when I have something as rare as wintered-over rabe, I want to taste it clearly and completely.

Serves 4 - 6

kosher salt
1 lb dry fusilli
extra virgin olive oil
6 anchovy fillets, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
1 lb bunch broccoli rabe (wintered-over if available), rinsed and patted dry
crushed red pepper flakes or 1 fresh minced red chili, to taste
juice of ½ a lemon
¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

In a large pot, boil some well-salted water. Toss in the fusilli and boil, stirring occasionally, until par-cooked (about half-done). Drain and reserve. (Note: My fusilli took about 4 minutes, but cooking time always varies according to brand).

Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add a generous glug of olive oil and then the anchovies. Stir and mash with a wooden spoon until they break down into a paste. Add the garlic and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Sauté, stirring often for 1 minute. Cut the rabe into manageable lengths and sauté about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the crushed red pepper or fresh minced chile and then toss in the fusilli and add some more olive oil. Sauté, stirring often, for about 2 minutes, or until the fusilli is al dente.

Sprinkle with lemon juice and check the seasoning with more salt and red pepper. Toss with the grated parmigiano and serve immediately.


Anonymous said...

Broccoli Rabe is one of my favourite vegetables, I love the idea of combining it with Anchovies.
cant wait to try out this dish.
Hallelujah to spring I say.
Norwalk, CT

Lucy said...

Simple though this may be, it's a combination of flavours well worth waiting all of winter for. Glorious crop of Rabe.

The deeply salty anchovy is something I crave. Often late at night, plucked straight from the jar...

Pleased to have found your blog.

Figs Olives Wine said...

One of my favorites too! Especially after a long winter - I hope you enjoy the dish!

I really do crave them too! Addictive. So happy you found my blog - stay in touch!

Joanna said...

Fabulous - not sure we have broccoli rabe here, but you make it sound just how I feel about purple sprouting broccoli, which stands all winter and then bursts into edible blossom as the first gift of spring to the garden ... and is delicious with anchovies too.

I was interested to read that Americans don't in general relish oily fish - I thought I wasn't too keen, until we started eating them regularly after my husband's heart attack. Now I find white fish rather bland and uninteresting. Funny how your palate changes.


Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Joanna! I read all the time about purple sprouting broccoli and would love to taste it! The winters over here are just too harsh, I fear.

You know Americans, as a nation, eat a ton of tuna and salmon. But they really shy away from the more pungent flavors of anchovies and sardines. The pizza place in my parent's town is called "Everything But Anchovies!"

I just followed your profile links, and I'm really looking forward to exploring your blogs. Stay in touch!

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