Monday, March 12

I could go for broccoli rabe. I hope I'm not pregnant.

I'm craving broccoli rabe. No, Mom, I’m not pregnant.

Broccoli rabe, also called rapini, is an Italian vegetable that is actually not related to broccoli at all. It's more like a cousin of the turnip, hence its bold, bitter flavor.

My sister-in-law is also craving broccoli rabe, and she is very pregnant. I was a bit surprised to learn this (no, not that she's pregnant; that it's broccoli rabe she's craving). You see, Dee is a born and bred Southern girl: petite, with liquid blue eyes, natural blonde hair, and the ever slightest, sweet Southern twang. When I think of broccoli rabe, I think of cold New England weather, 6- foot tall hungry brothers, and crusty Italian bread. It was often a lunch my mother would serve my father and two brothers.

This coming Saturday is Dee’s baby shower in Atlanta. She and Jason (one of Jeff's brothers) are expecting a little girl in May; she will be the first new baby in Jeff’s family. You can imagine the anticipation.

I assume the broccoli rabe craving is the result of Jason's Italian heritage rubbing off on Dee. He speaks Italian and is an outstanding cook who could take on Molto Mario in an Iron Chef challenge of meats. Jason, however, wouldn’t be caught dead in orange clogs. Or clogs of any color. He’s much more of an Armani kind of guy.

Jason's love of Italian cooking and meats stems both from his mom and from his (and Jeff’s) first jobs at Tom’s Deli on Charles Street. I love to hear them reminisce about making grinders, veal parm, and chicken marsala, and about eating the scraps of sliced prosciutto that were unsuitable for the customers. Apparently, there were a lot of unsuitable scraps.

Ironically both brothers married vegetarians; needless to say, culinary compromise is key in both houses. For instance, though Jeff and I both love broccoli rabe, he has to have his with some good Italian sausage while I like mine simply paired with crispy polenta.

So, Jason and Dee, I have decided to post two recipes featuring broccoli rabe. For us vegetarians, I offer sautéed broccoli rabe on crispy polenta with a rosemary and goat cheese sauce. And for carnivores, a classic, no-frills, Italian sandwich: crunchy Ciabatta bread topped with pan seared Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone. I hope they will be a marriage made in heaven.

I was also wondering, did any of you crave broccoli rabe when you were pregnant? If not, what did you crave?

Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) on Crispy Polenta with a Rosemary-Goat Cheese Sauce
Print recipe only here.

1 cup yellow polenta
2 cups water
2 cups milk (low fat is ok)
2 tsp butter
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp, plus 1 tsp olive for pan-searing

Combine the water, milk, butter, oil, and salt and pepper in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta and whisk. The polenta will start to bubble and spit pretty quickly. Place a cover on it, askew; reduce to a low simmer, and stir a couple of times, making sure to scrape the pan so the polenta doesn’t stick. Since it will be pan-seared, I shorten the cooking time to 10-15 minutes.

Coat a 9-inch pie plate or other round dish with cooking spray. Pour the cooked polenta in it, and smooth with a knife. Cover with foil, and place in the fridge for at least an hour (or even overnight if you want to plan ahead). Once chilled, it will easily slice into 8 pie slices.

When ready to pan sear the polenta, add 1 Tbsp, plus 1 tsp. olive oil to a non-stick skillet. Add the polenta slices and sear on each side for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.

Broccoli rabe:
1 large bunch broccoli rabe (stems removed)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 minced garlic clove (optional)
A few shakes of crushed red pepper
Sea salt, to taste

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Boil broccoli rabe for 1- 1 ½ minutes; drain. Plunge in a bowl of ice water. Shocking the rabe will maintain its vivid green color and stop them from cooking.

In a skillet, add olive oil. Add garlic, and sauté until it turns golden. Add broccoli rabe, crushed red pepper, and salt. Sauté 1-2 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Rosemary-Goat Cheese Sauce:
1/2 cup cream or half n’half
4 oz. soft goat cheese
1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
A few cranks of freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp toasted chopped walnuts for garnish

For the goat cheese sauce, combine all ingredients in a small skillet, and heat 2-3 minutes, or until sauce is smooth and creamy.

To toast walnuts, place in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, shaking the handle slightly to toast nuts evenly. Remove when slightly golden and aromatic.

To serve, pour goat cheese sauce on each plate. Top with 2 slices of crispy polenta, 1/4 of the broccoli rabe, and 1/4 of the toasted walnuts. Garnish with some chopped fresh rosemary. Makes 4 servings.

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Sandwich with Sharp Provolone
Print recipe only here.

1 small bunch broccoli rabe, stems removed
1 small minced garlic clove, optional
2 tsp olive oil
A few shakes of crushed red pepper
Salt, to taste

1 small 8-9 inch loaf crusty Italian bread (I like Ciabatta)
2 tsp olive oil
4 slices sharp Provolone cheese
Some crushed red pepper

2 links Italian sausage
1 tsp olive oil

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Boil broccoli rabe for 1-1 ½ minutes; drain. Plunge in a bowl of ice water. Shocking the rabe will maintain its vivid green color and stop them from cooking.

In a skillet, add 2 tsp olive oil and garlic. Sauté until garlic starts to turn golden. Add broccoli rabe, crushed red pepper, and salt. Sauté 1-2 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Slice loaf in half to make 2 sandwiches. Brush the center of the bread with the olive oil. Place under the broiler for 3-4 minutes, or until golden and crunchy.

Slice sausage links in half. Add 1 tsp olive oil to a skillet, and pan sear 5-7 minutes per side, or until they are brown and crispy.

To make the sandwiches, add the provolone cheese to the hot bread. Top with sausage and broccoli rabe. Season with crushed red pepper and salt. Serve right away while the cheese is hot and melty.

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Anonymous said...

Before my son was born, I never drank soda. Ever. Then I got pg, and I craved Coca Cola like I was dying. DYING!! I could hardly stand it, and drinking it, I swear, made me feel drunk. My OB said I was craving sugar, or at the very weirdest, carbon dioxide.

Does Broccoli Rabe give off some odd chemical that your SIL may be craving??

Those recipes look wonderful! Esp. the polenta.

Anonymous said...

Having never been pregnant or having tried broccoli rabe, I haven't an answer for your question, but the dishes look absolutely superb!

Monika Korngut said...

I love broccoli rabe, your dishes look great and not difficult to make. I haven't eaten it in a long time but now I wish to run out and buy some :-)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Susan, love the new look of your blog! I definitely think of broccoli rabe as a cold-weather, New England Italian thing. It's always on the menu in restaurants in Providence and in Boston's North End. As for craving it? Nope, never!

Mikaela said...

Oh, yum. I bookmarked this entry, it looks great!

My cravings were not broccoli rabe, but a much simpler goldfish crackers and chocolate milkshakes :)

Pille said...

Just to confuse things - is broccoli rabe the same as broccolini/tender stem broccoli? I used to buy that a lot in Scotland, and always thought it's a version of broccoli.
Anyway - I love broccoli, and by the looks of it, I'd also love broccoli rabe. The recipes are really tempting!!

Rachel said...

no babies here! But my husband had rabe for the first time last week (on a homemade rabe/eggplant pizza) and has been talking about it every since!

wheresmymind said...

If you said broccoli rabe with Fish Food ice cream I'd put money on you being preggers :D

Asha said...

I didn't crave for anything when I was pregnant but couldn't stand the sight,thought and smell of any kind of meat!!!I guess I went back to my Hindu vegetarian roots for a while!!:p

Rabe and suasage sandwich looks wonderful.I love meat now Blogga'!;D

Mishmash ! said...

hehehe...i could'nt stop laughing when I read ur title and the write up :)) If craving is a symptom of pregnancy, then I am one all throughout the year, but I am not ;)) Ur dish and the presentation itself is tickling my craving now !!


Willa said...

I'm sad to say, I craved chili cheese dogs when I was pregnat with son # 1, (which might explain many things about him.) With son # 2, I don't remember cravings, but I remember aversions- mainly to vegetables of all sorts (which might explain many things about him!) But at that time in the central midwest, broccoli rabe was an unknown quantity. Perhaps I shall use menopause as an excuse to crave broccoli rabe- it is certainly causing me to crave kale and collards!


Stella said...

I love your new banner with the kumquats! Beautiful photo of the author too!:)
Oh boy, I love your brocoli rabe & sausage sandwich!!

MeloMeals said...

I'll take some of yours, please! It looks amazing and so rich.

You know, when I was pregnant with my first son, I developed a LOVE For cilantro. I hated it with a passion before I got pregnant. I am thrilled that I love it now. My son loves it too.
I also craved spicy mexian food.. through both of my pregnancies (after the first 3 months or so).. and coke in a can over 32oz of ice. I'm embarrassed to admit, that I drank a coke every single night the last 2 months of my pregnancy with my first son. It was a hot, Iowa summer.. and it was so refreshing. It had to be out of a can though.

emily said...

Thanks so much for your comment on my blog yesterday! I'll return the favor by saying that I've flagged nearly every recipe you've made since I started reading your blog last month (including this one)- can't wait to start trying them. Your creations sound amazing and the photos are beautiful!

Linda said...

i LOVE broccoli rabe AND your new header! i'm trying to get mine up too... can't wait to try this recipe!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

I've never been pregnant, but I adore broccoli rabe. I keep it simple and just sautee it with olive oil and tons of garlic.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Kate-From the little bit of research I did, broccoli rabe is high in vitamins C and A,calcium, and iron. So it's possible that it's related to her body's needs for one of those nutrients. I'm intrigued though....

Ellie-No problem! Glad you like the dishes.

Monika-Thanks so much! Hope you get some soon.

Lydia-Thanks. Glad you like it! You're right. I always ordered it for the side vegetable if it was available.

Mikaela-Thanks for bookmarking it! Hmmm... I love chocolate milkshakes, but not goldfish crackers. So, I think I'm still safe. ;)

Pille-I'm not a scientist, but based on my conversations with farmers, my own tastes, and my friend, Wikipedia, here goes:
Broccolini resembles broccoli but is much slimmer in size and sweeter in taste. It's actually a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale and is entirely edible.
Broccoli rabe resembles broccoli as well, but is not actually broccoli. It's closer to the turnip and has a bitter taste like mustard greens.
Acc. to two farmers I spoke to, young or tender broccoli is just that-- young broccoli that's been picked early, and not broccolini. I think it is more tender and slightly sweeter than regular broccoli.

Rachel-Ooooh...rabe with eggplant (also one of my favorites). No wonder he can't stop talking about it!

Jeff-Whew! Looks like I'm in the clear! ;)

Asha-Hmm...the smells and the aversion or attraction to meat--I've heard of that before. It's fascinating the way a woman's body changes, isn't it? I like your theory about returning to your Hindu roots.

Shn-Yeh! It's always good to giggle on a Monday morning.

Willa-Thanks for visiting! Sounds like you've got boys with different personalities. Great! It must make life more interesting. I love kale and collards too. Maybe menopause won't be so bad. ;)

Valentina-You are a sweetheart. Thank you. :)

Melody-Your Coke secret is safe with me. ;)

Emily-You are quite welcome! Wow! Thank you so much! I'm glad you like the recipes and photos.

Linda-Thanks! Looking forward to seeing yours too.

Lisa-I agree about the simple preparation and the copious amounts of garlic. Thanks goodness my husband does too.

thepassionatecook said...

i am definitely not pregnant anymore, but just started craving broccoli rabe now. seeing it with polenta is what did it!
i have never had any real cravings, but always took pregnancy as an excuse to indulge a bit more in everything ;-)

sher said...

The pictures and recipes are fabulous!!!! I've never been pregnanat, but I've seen all manner of cravings in pregnant friends and family. Now that I've seen your pictures, I'm craving broccoli!! Hmm......

Sig said...

Susan, I've never heard of broccoli rabe,when I read the title I thought, hmmm can anyone ever crave for broccoli? Good to know that it is not related to broccoli :D
I love the new look, that kumquats banner is great... and good to see your cute face up there too, i like to always put a face to a name..

Freya Erickson said...

Those rabe dishes look sooo good! I crave kale or rabe when I'm carroted out so perhaps that's what it is? Or, perhaps it's the high iron content?

Anh said...

Susan, I wonder if I have tried broccoli rabe. But your post is so yummy, love the photos! The crispy polenra is a must-try for me, too. :D

Oh, back in Asia, they say pregrant women crave for sour food. No experience from me, but this is a common belief. :D

Lucy said...

Never been pregnant myself, but I imagine that your sister-in-law is craving broccoli rabe for its folic acid and iron content. Though if she cooks it like this, it may well be just 'cos it's delicious!

I've never eaten broccoli rabe (at least not knowingly) and am going to keep my eyes peeled for it during winter /spring. Your photos are beautiful.

Scribbit said...

Nice profile picture by the way --

I have to ask, with a name like rapini is it supposed to be the same thing as rapun? (Rapunzel) Doesn't the woman in the fairy tale crave rapun? I always was told it was a radish, maybe that's broccoli rabe. I've never had any but have heard it's terribly good for you.

Anonymous said...

I am with Ellie...Having never been pregnant or having tried broccoli rabe. But I would like both your dishes in front of me right I can eat them up!
Jason & Dee in Atlanta? They must be fabulous people! :) Hee hee...Lots of great Baby Boutiques!

Anonymous said...

The broccoli rabe on crispy polenta with goat's cheese sauce looks absolutely sensational!


Connie said...

i love the polenta recipe. and what a strange thing to crave... both while pregnant or not. i guess sometimes you just get an idea in your mind and have to run with it!

Melting Wok said...

Susan, do they sell this at regular grocery market ? I've not seen these before, I'm learning now for future references hehe..never know when I get those cravings :)

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I love your equal opportunity approach! For those of us who will never be pregnant, we can enjoy broccholi rabe both ways - and I've never thought of making polenta as pie wedges, but what a fantastic idea!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Johanna- Sounds like you had great pregnancies.

Sher- Good, now I'm not alone.

Sig- Thanks. It can be pronounced "raab" or might be "rapini" in the market.

Freya and Paul- It's actually kind of interesting. Apparently there is some truth to craving essential nutrients when you are pregnant.

Anh- I just learned that broccoli rabe can also be commonly found in Chinese cooking. I don't know about other Asian cuisines.

Lucy- I hope you find some. It is delicious.

Michelle- Thanks. I don't have any children yet, so my fairy tales are a little rusty. I'll check it out.

Chris- Atlanta certainly does attract wonderful people. :)

Mae- Thanks so much!

Connie- I have plenty of those.

Shirley- Definitely. Henry's or Ralph's has it.

TW- Thanks. The pie slices make a nice presentation.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Your post is wonderful, I had a laugh with you!

I have never seen rapini and will try to find out the equivalent word in Portuguese.
What a beautiful way to shape polenta, I'm gonna try it anyway - with or without rapini! ;)

Oh, and about the pregnancy thing - I've been married for 2 years and every time I say I feel like eating something in particular people give me the oddest looks. ;)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Oh Susan, what a fun write up and great read - I love family stories.
I would love to have some of your rapini and polenta somebody else can have the sausage!!
First time I was pregnant, I craved chocolate second time nothing.

Anonymous said...

That brocolli rabe over the polenta cakes with the goat cheese sauce looks simply divine!

Anonymous said...

aaaaaaaaack, susan it all looks so delicious! what clever ways to use brocolli rabe. the only way i make it is the traditional w/ olive oil and garlic.

i have memories of bracolli rabe too of my uncles having lengthy discussions on the proper cooking methods, garlic:olive oil ratio's etc etc ;)

congrats on welcoming a new member of your fam :)

Gattina Cheung said...

I got to show your crisy polenta cake to my mother-in-law (she just ate it too often when she's a little girl; now she swears she won't touch this stuff anymore). But I'm confident I able to convert her!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

I swear, every time I read food blogs it seems like everyone is on the same wavelength. Or maybe we're all shopping at the same farmers' markets. :)

I posted my recipe for pad see-ew last week with Thai broccoli but mentioned broccoli rabe as a good substitute. Heh.

tigerfish said...

Maybe I should try some broccoli rabe and first, know what it taste like. I've seen it but never bought it before.

I love your sandwich!

bazu said...

First of all, I love your komquat header- so bright and beautiful.

Second of all, I've never been pregnant (to my knowledge...?) but I love broccoli rabe and crave it all the time. I buy tons whenever it's on sale. Your photos and recipes make me drool, as usual. =)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Patricia- Glad we shared a laugh. It is so interesting how pregnancy cravings are discussed in so many cultures.

Tanna- I feel the same way about the sausage for sure.

Veronica- Thanks!

Aria- There were many such conversations in my house too.

Gattina- Funny, my grandmother is not too keen on polenta for the same reason. Apparently they ate it A LOT.

Wandering Chopsticks- It is amazing to me how often this happens.

Tigerfish- You should definitely try it before planning a whole dinner around it. It is delicious, but bold.

Bazu- Thanks. Oh Bazu, you're a fellow broccoli rabe lover? Just one more reason to like you.

Passionate Eater said...

Both vegetarian and meat alternatives look mouthwatering. I've never been pregnant before, but if I were, I would have craved broccoli rabe the way the foodblogga makes it! Also, I had no idea that broccoli rabe was not a part of the broccoli family. There is another kind of chinese broccoli (gai lan) very similar to broccoli rabe, so I always thought all those veggies were related.

Deborah Dowd said...

Your post and pix make me crave broccoli rabe and I am way past the possibility of being pregnant!
The weirdest craving I actually had was with my second child- I had morning sickness for the first three months and basically lived on chocolate milk and toast with butter and peanut butter. One day i had this overwhelming craving for red meat and I sent my husband out for a steak and then barely seared it on the outside and ate the whole thing (a la Rosemary's Baby!) That marked the end of my morning sickness!

Toni said...

Gaaaawdjus new site!!! Love the photos - kumquats? Gaawdjus, doll, just gaawdjus! And you? So nice to see your face! (Ex New Yawkah heeah.)

I crave broccoli rabe when I'm feeling Italian. Which I'm not, but I think I might have been in another life. Your broccoli rabe and polenta looks fabulous! Great combo of flavors, great photography.

Lisa Johnson said...

I love the new banner and both dishes look yum!

Anonymous said...

Susan, I've always found the cuisine of the US South has striking similarities with aspects of Italian cuisines. There's the obvious of grits/polenta, but there's also a shared love of bitter greens like collards/rapini. Now, I can't say I'm a huge fan of bitter greens like rapini, but they do have a place on my table. Put them on that sandwich, however, with that gorgeous sausage and melted provolone, and I'll eat it day and night. What an unbelievable way to get people to eat their greens.

Anonymous said...

Hi susan, This one is a great picture,Drool worthy ! looks so tempting ,just wondering if I could get to make as appealing as yours..:)

J said...

Oh, I crave for something or the other all the time!! And I'm certainly not pregnant yet!! :) Your post was funny!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Passioneater-Oh, that's sweet of you. I didn't know it either, but a little bit of searching unearths more than you can imagine about broccoli and its cousins.

Deborah-Thanks for sharing your story; I loved it!

Toni-I think you might have been Italian in another life too. That's a pretty good accent you got there. You gotta be kiddin me; an ex-New Yorkah? We're practically related. ;)

Anali-Thanks! That's so nice of you.

Rob-After having lived in North Carolina, I am quite familiar with grits. I had never thought about the greens connection though; that's interesting. I still prefer rabe to collards and mustard greens though. Some tastes are just programmed, you know? Glad you like the sandwich; it's always been one of Jeff's favorites.

Lera-Thanks! I'm sure yours will be just as appealing!

Jyothsna-Oh, I'm so glad you liked it!

Betty Carlson said...

Cyber serendipity strikes again - -I've just read two posts in a row on rapini!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

"Cyber serendipity." I like that!

leonine194 said...

héhé, i craved goat cheese, howerver i ddn't like that before!

Dee said...

Susan, thank you for such a sweet story. I read it back in March of last year but with having a new baby, working full time, moving and being without computer access for over a month, free time was rare.
Right after you posted the recipe I made if for us and Jason loved it. Of course, I made the vegetarian recipe because I am no where as good as you are in the kitchen. Your recipe was easy and delicious. Thank you.

I agree with your boggers and must have been craving iron which makes sense since the baby was taking what iron I had available. Thank goodness for prenatal vitamins and broccoli rabe!!

Mary W said...

Susan - I found your blog by googling for rapini recipes. I was looking for something other than olive oil and garlic as a side dish or over pasta. I lucked out with your sausage and rapini sandwich. Also with eggplant on pizza. Both look delish!!

Since arriving here I've spent a bit of time looking around... alright, the last 2 hours, but don't tell my husband. I love your blog. I too am a San Diegan which I guess explains why my garden is overflowing with rapaini in January.

Mary W