As you may remember from my last post, I recently moved back out of the family house, for the second time. (Don’t ask.) Needless to say the terms of my leaving this time around were much different than they were when I was a 22-year-old. The slightly more realistic 33-year-old me has a very different relationship with the family than my fresh out of school, thinkin’-I-know it all self. And even though I haven’t moved out of the area code, sometimes even I, still stubborn and independent-to-a-fault, feel homesick. THERE MOM, I SAID IT. PUBLICLY. HAPPY NOW?
I realized this only when I noticed that rapini was on sale at my one of my neighbourhood fruit stands. Now this VERY HUMBLE side dish (which I will happily ravage as a main) was a staple in my house growing up and also in the house my mother grew up in. Something about those bitter greens sautéd with onions and garlic that just make me breathe a little easier and my pupils dilate with calmness and serenity. Rapini is my yoga, people. NO KIDDING.
Since I live alone, I usually only make one bunch at a time and I’ll get two very satisfying portions out of that bunch. Feel free to double/triple as you see fit. Just note you may need to do your sautéing in batches* as you may not have a non-stick skillet the size of an above ground swimming pool.
Ingredients (notice the short list. This is about simple technique and a lot of love):
- 1 bunch of rapini
- ½ sweet onion (vidalia is my fave for this, but whatever you have is fine. IT’S PEASANT FOOD LET’S NOT MAKE IT COMPLICATED), med-small dice. You’re looking for pieces about 1 cm square.
- 1 clove of garlic, very thinly sliced.
- A couple of glugs of extra virgin olive oil. Add more if you need.
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Before we continue, a note on rapini:
Look at the bottom of the stems. You want them straight, not curling or splitting, and hopefully the stalks are all generally the same size. If you’re at the grocer and you happen to notice there’s a mob of four-point-five-foot-tall European ladies dressed in black, body-checking each other to get some, I suggest you dive in the brawl. Means it’s good. AND ON SALE. Be careful though, these broads are vicious and they WILL take you out. NO KIDDING.
Back to the show:
Bring a pot of sea-salted water to boil. Don’t use that iodized stuff. It’s bad for you. And yes, I said boil. Not steam. I mean you can if you want, but you’re not boiling them for long. Plus this method does take out some of the excess bitterness that rapini can have. No two bunches are created equal. Remember this.*
Trim rapini. Just chop off the bottom centimeter. If your stalks are curling or splitting, trim them to whatever length is necessary. Stalks that are thicker can be sliced down lengthwise for about an inch or two to keep cooking times consistent.
Once your water is rumbling, drop in your trimmed rapini and let it go for a few minutes or until they’re bright green. You CAN shock them ice water, but for me it’s an unnecessary step and I’d rather use my ice cubes for cocktails.
While your rapini is in the pot, fire up your skillet on med-high with olive oil and sauté your onions until translucent. Add your thin slices of garlic to the pan. DO. NOT. BURN. THE. GARLIC.
Strain your mostly cooked rapini and add it to the pan, tossing and massaging the olive-oil-onion-and-garlicky-goodness into those tender limbs. Add your sprinkling of salt and pepper. Getting all your flavours mingling together should take about 5 minutes.
Serve it as a side, toss a few gloriously wilted limbs into your favourite pasta, throw it in a sandwich, add to a steak salad, or be like me chuck it in a bowl and dive in as is. Good hot or cold. I often eat it cold.
*If you’re doing a large batch for a crowd, do the sauté steps in no more than doubled recipes at a time. It’s important to get the flavour of the olive oil, onion and garlic INTO the greens for this to be a success. Sautéing your onions and garlic and your four bunches of rapini separately and then tossing them together in a giant bowl at the end will not be same. You can also adjust your bitterness levels to make sure everything in your ginormous finished batch tastes perfect.
**Speaking of which, taste as you’re sautéing. If it’s too bitter, add a smidge of agave or natural and NEUTRAL-flavoured sweetener of your choice. This won’t make the rapini sweet per se, but will neutralize some of that excess bitterness. Also a squeeze of fresh lemon always adds a little lift. Some zest too if you’re looking to impress someone special. RAWR!
What I Am Drinking: Aperol spritz – Prosecco spiked with a shot of aperol, with a wedge of lime
What I Am Listening To: Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming
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