Sunday, September 22, 2013

Not So Bitter Greens - Orecchiette & Broccoli Rabe + Fried Capers

Broccoli rabe and pasta are a natural match often spotted together on Italian menus in a popular dish that includes sausage. A'int nothing wrong with that. But today is meatless Monday, and although my husband may complain bitterly, we are having an all-veggie meal.  As an added wrinkle, he thinks he really doesn't like broccoli rabe. He's part Italian, mind you, so such a declaration just will not stand in this house.  

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Fried Capers, Photo: NK

Also - I like a good challenge!

Plus, whenever fall rolls around, my vegetable cravings turn towards the dark, leafy greens, and broccoli rabe is among my all time favorites - with or without pasta. 

Broccoli Rabe, Photo: NK
Broccoli Rabe gets a bad rap because of its complex and slightly bitter flavor, but in today's recipe, we'll soak it to take a way some of that bitterness. Though this veggie may be an acquired taste, it's hard not to love when tossed with orecchiette pasta, so named because its resemblance to "little ears," and tangy parmigiana reggiano cheese. A simple sauce composed of of garlic, olive oil, and crushed red pepper flakes ties the recipe together, and crispy, piquant fried capers add major appeal while rounding out any bitterness from the greens.

This dish is adapted from a gorgeous cookbook that my sister-in-law gave me last year - Savoring the Hamptons by Silvia Lehrer. For more recipes adapted from this wonderful book (and for the reasons I find Long Island's East End to be an inspiring culinary destination), click HERE

Another reason why I love Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Fried Capers is because it's really a genius recipe; the broccoli rabe cooks right in the pasta water and the timing works perfectly together. 

Also- you can use this fried caper method on any dish you like to add a crunchy, tangy note to your next pasta, vegetable or protein. Happy Cooking! 

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Fried Capers
Adapted from Savoring the Hamptons by Silvia Lehrer
Serves 4 as an entree, 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients:  1 Lb Orecchiette Pasta
1 Large Bunch Broccoli Rabe
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 heaping Tablespoons Capers, rinsed, drained and patted very dry
2 Large Cloves of Garlic finely chopped
Crushed Red Pepper
1/4 Cup Coarsely Grated Parmigiana Cheese
Black Pepper

1/2 Cup chopped Italian Parsley (optional)

1. Prepare the broccoli rabe: 
Cut several inches of the woody stems off the broccoli rabe and discard.
Next, pull off the broccoli-like florets and remove them to a small bowl. 
Now, cut the broccoli rabe leaves off their ribs and place the leaves in another small bowl. Tear then if they are on the large side. Cover both bowls with cold water and allow them to sit for 20 minutes before draining away the water. 

Photo: NK
*You can do the above steps in advance if you prefer - just be sure to drain the greens after 20 minutes.  If you don't have time to soak the broccoli rabe, it ill still be good, just give it a good rinse. 

2. When ready to cook your meal, set a large pot of well-salted water to boil.

Photo: NK

3. Meanwhile, warm oil over medium high heat in a small saucepan. Add the capers. The oil may spit so be careful. 
Fry them for 1-2 minutes until capers crack open and start to become golden but not burnt. When the right color is achieved, turn off the heat and remove capers using a slotted spoon to a paper towel for draining. They should be somewhat crispy once dry. Set capers aside for use later but leave the oil behind in the pan.

4. By this time, your pasta water should be close to boiling. When it has started, add the orecchiette and the broccoli rabe Leaves. Boil for 2 minutes. Then add the broccoli rabe florets and cook another 7 minutes for al dente pasta (check the cook time on the box as it could vary). Another 8 minutes for less firm pasta.  (Hint: al dente is always the way to go)

5. While the pasta and greens boil, turn the flame back on medium-low under the caper oil. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and saute 1-2 minutes until fragrant and slightly golden. Add  a 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, a few small pinches of salt and a generous pinch of black pepper. Stir and turn off the flame.  
Plating the Pasta, Photo: NK

6. When pasta is finished, drain it along with the greens from the pot using a colander set over a small bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Stir pasta water into the oil, garlic and pepper mixture on the stove.

7. To serve:
Place pasta and greens into your serving bowl, drizzle oil and garlic sauce over the pasta and toss. Sprinkle with fried capers and finish with grated parmigiana and optional chopped parsley. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Buon appetito! 

Enjoy - and P.S. the husband gobbled this right up. 

Your family will too! 

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