If you are a little standoffish about broccoli rabe, you are not alone. Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, is notorious for its characteristically “bitter” taste. While this is something that has never discouraged me, it certainly turns a lot of people off from even trying this veggie. If you are one of those people, I hope this is the recipe that changes that for you.
I’ve prepared broccoli rabe many times throughout the years and, after plenty of trial and error, learned that blanching is the best technique to maintain the color, texture and nutritional value, while cutting the bitterness dramatically. Blanching, literally meaning “to whiten,” is a par-cooking technique wherein you put a food in boiling water for a very short period of time and immediately transfer it to ice water to halt the cooking process. If, as I always am, you’re looking to spend less time in front of the stove and more time with your guests, this technique is a must have in your kitchen repertoire and a handy little time-saving trick to have up your sleeve when hosting. Simply blanch the veggies ahead of time and store them in the fridge until show time. Then, when it’s time to bring the meal together, finish them quickly in a saute pan or under a broiler with butter, olive oil, garlic, or whatever your pretty little heart desires.
Here’s a link to a cool blanching timetable I found online for various vegetables. Aside from broccoli rabe, asparagus and green beans are two excellent candidates for blanching preparation. I prefer my veggies al dente, so I’d probably cut most of these times by thirty seconds to one-minute depending on which one you’re looking at. Don’t forget, they’ll cook even more when you return them to the skillet or stove top.
Okay, so now you know everything there is to know about blanching. Heck, you’re blanching experts! So, let’s get back to the broccoli rabe dish in front of you. This is a Giada de Laurentis recipe I adapted slightly to fit my tastes. Sweet plump raisins and delicately flavored pine nuts work in tandem with the blanching process to distract you from any inherent bitterness in the rabe, making it a dynamite preparation if trying it for the first time or attempting to convert others. This side dish has oodles of flavor, so it’s probably best served alongside a simple protein like roasted chicken, as not to distract from a more complex main dish.
Broccoli Rabe With Raisins & Pine Nuts
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentis recipe
2 bunches of broccoli rabe (approximately 2 lbs)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup golden raisins
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the meantime, rinse broccoli rabe under cool water. Trim and discard tough woody stems from each bunch. Cook each broccoli rabe bunch separately in the boiling water about 1 minute until crisp tender. Immediately transfer the rabe to a large bowl of ice water to cool. Reserve two tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Strain the broccoli rabe in a colander and set aside.
Heat a large deep skillet over medium. Add pine nuts and swirl around constantly for several minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Reduce heat to medium low. Add olive oil and garlic to pan and saute two minutes or until garlic has softened slightly. Add the broccoli rabe and toss to coat. Add the raisins and reserved cooking water and cook for approximately 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and toss with pine nuts. Serve immediately.