Monday, March 5, 2012

Venturing into the dark (green) side

Ah, green things ! So vibrant in color,so nutritionally dense, so plentiful in today's markets. We live in a world of plenty here . So many fruit and veggie choices that it can make you think you stepped into The Rainbow Connection when you walk into a grocery store these days. However, the same thing is true for our friend here:
as is for some of the seasonal, odd but nourishing greens. Take this guy for example-
is it a spinach ? is it an alien form of broccoli ? is it the love child of a dandelion and an artichoke ? No- it's something called Broccoli Rab or Broccolini. It's little known outside of the Italian community it seems,and often mis-cooked. It is a bitter green vegetable that has the same unpleasant taste as improperly prepared turnip greens.Both are descendants of wild mustard greens and have a strong, spicy taste that require a little care to make them enjoyable to the pallette.

I must confess- I tried this veggie two years ago for the first time with improper cooking directions and the result was horrible. We vowed never to eat it again, and then one day my  potential crush David Rocco made it on his show in a way that made sense. Okay, confession- if David Rocco suggested a way to cook wood pallettes I would probably try it because I was too busy basking in the flavor of David Rocco to allow my common sense to step in. I am justified in this feeling- the  man is a darned good cook, as well as being tasty eye candy.....
err...back to the kitchen ! According to David, these dark greens need to be blanched first and then cooked in other things to complement the flavor and bring it out. Blanching , as in collard,dandelion or turnip greens tones down the sharpest of the bitter flavor. I do not know the exact reason  for this, but it is something that many Southern cooks do with dark  greens as well . For many years I had heard people rave about broccoli rab, had read about it's nutritional benefits ( a serving contains 21% RDA of Vitamin A, 13% Vitamin C and is fairly high in iron), and I was determined to learn to like this. After all , I keep telling my son ( who 5 years ago would not voluntarily  eat any vegetable) that the secret to liking a food is finding  a way you like it prepared. I could not follow my own advice  and still have "street cred" with the kid  !

So, armed with a mental image of  David and determined not to undermine my authority, I bought some Broccoli Rab again. I washed it, chopped it into bite sized bits and par boiled it for 3 minutes,  Then I removed it from the water and let it drain for a couple of minutes. In a separate pan I sauteed some onion, garlic and spicy prosciutto ( though bacon would work nicely). Next I tossed the drained broccoli rab into the pan with the tasty bits and cooked for about 4 minutes. Here was the result:

a tasty pile of strong tasting greens with a nice complement from the salty , spicy prosciutto. Verdict ? Much better, interesting taste and would definitely have this one again. I think this dish would go best as a side with some mild flavored meat or even a simple omelet.

Good news it that we expanded our already vast vegetable kingdom- always a good thing. The green world has so many delicious, versatile things to offer. To the haters, I say don't discard the veggie- discard the way you had it prepared . Give it another whirl using a different method ( hate it boiled ? try it raw, roasted, fried, sauteed or some other way) . Look to different mentors to inspire you- you have no further to go that Cooking Channel, Food Network or Youtube to learn a new way to prepare something. And if the mentor proves to be as yummy to look at, it's  win-win situation.

1 comment:

Jeremy Logsdon said...

I so desperately need to add more veggies, and this one looks intriguing. May have to add it to the rotation.