Broccoli Rabe Philly Style
With its green awnings, mural art, and scent of red gravy in the air, Philly’s famous Italian Market is practically unchanged since it appeared in the original Rocky movie back in the seventies. Stroll down 9th Street, and you’re bound to find my favorite traditional Italian greens, broccoli rabe. Not the easiest vegetable to work with, it can quickly become a bitter mess if not prepared properly. The key is blanching first and draining all excess water, then knowing when to stop cooking—when it’s just one shade darker than it was just after blanching. In addition, broccoli rabe must be really fresh. If it’s started to wilt, move on to another green.
In this recipe, I’m recommending some other classic South Philly flavors: dried porcini and roasted peppers. If you live near Philadelphia, try to get an authentic Amoroso hoagie roll (what the cheesesteaks are served on). Alternatively, this dish can be served as an elegant antipasto with olives.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves 2 to 4
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling pan
4 red bell peppers
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches broccoli rabe, bottom 3 inches of stems removed, leaves and remaining stems chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon porcini powder
1/2 cup vegan mayo
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sliced bread, toasted or grilled (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over heat high and prepare an ice bath.
2. Rub a sheet pan lightly with olive oil. Put the peppers on the pan and roast until they collapse, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the peppers from the oven and set aside until cool to the touch. Peel off the skins, cut the peppers in half, and remove the seeds and stems. Then slice the peppers into thin strips and toss in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of the oil, the balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Set aside.
3. Blanch the broccoli rabe in the salted boiling water for 4 minutes. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Drain the broccoli rabe, shock in the ice bath for 5 minutes, then drain thoroughly.
4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. When it begins to ripple, add the garlic and allow it to brown for about 1 minute. Add the broccoli rabe, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the broccoli rabe wilts and turns a slightly darker shade of green, 5 to 7 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
5. Meanwhile, whisk the porcini powder with the reserved 2 tablespoons cooking water in a small bowl. Add the vegan mayo, mustard, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and whisk until creamy.
6. If desired, spread the cream on the bread and top with the broccoli rabe and peppers. Or, if serving the broccoli rabe and peppers as an antipasto, offer the cream on the side.
Recipe from “Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking,” copyright © Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, 2013. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.