Friday, June 8, 2007

Rapid Rapini - Broccoli Rabe Brown Rice

Cooking on the fly is not a new concept. Indeed, after giving it some thought, there really isn’t anything under the sun that hasn’t been done before in matters of the kitchen. Despite trendy travertine countertops and the technological advancements of convenience gadgetry, every recipe and method are variations on themes that have evolved and been recycled through the years, introduced to and re-discovered by new generations of cooks.

This is not a bad thing; it keeps the channels of creativity crackling and prevents our increasingly jaded senses from being dulled down to the point where every meal looks like a pot of porridge. In nations of plenty, we have come to expect and embrace these dynamic innovations, but now seem on the verge of something really “big and different”…a return to going slow, to the customs and traditions of our ancestors and their small-farm ways, naturally-raised foods and big-time cooking. Planting the seed to move us away from McDonald’s and agribusiness is a very good thing for our health, as well as the planet’s, but there is no reason why we can’t adjust our speedometers to include the best of both worlds. Rapini is an ideal candidate to get things started.

Celebrated historically by the Italians, rapini, more commonly known as broccoli rabe or other permutations, cooks up much more quickly than other members of the bulky brassica family. Vibrantly healthy and closer genetically to the turnip than its namesake broccoli, rapini’s easily wilted leaves, stems and flowers belie a bitter bite to the uninitiated. Classically sauteed with oil and garlic, and served as a side dish, the vegetable is often combined with starches to temper its flavor while providing color and texture.

As we look at “new” ways to expand our culinary repertoire, revamp our diets, and consider our energy output, lesser known produce like rapini can be expected to enjoy some well-deserved popularity. We can still have our fast food and eat it, too.

Rapini with Brown Rice and Chickpeas - From the Barlow's recipe.


2 bunches rapini, tough, thick stems cut off
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 cups cold cooked brown rice (I used a 10-minute style to further speed things up)
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (or more to taste)
Salt and Pepper


Rinse rapini under running water, then blanch 3 minutes in a large pot of boiling water. Remove from water and allow to cool.

Meantime, in large skillet, cook onions and garlic in the olive oil over low heat until onions are golden and brown edged. Chop cooked rapini and add to onions and garlic, cooking for about one minute. Add chickpeas, brown rice and hot pepper flakes, mixing well and heating through. Serve in bowls. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you use quick-cook rice, this meal can be ready in as little as 20 minutes.

Serves 4. --

This entry is being submitted to Ulrike of K├╝chenlatein, who is hosting Weekend Herb Blogging for Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen, the creator of this food blogging event.


Nora B. said...

Oh Susan, you already know that I like chillies and chickpeas, but I have never heard of rapini so thanks for teaching me something new. p/s: I like how I can add hot pepper flakes to taste!

Truffle said...

This sounds delicious and what a fresh looks dish! I love the vibrant colours.

Shaun said...

Susan, lovie - I love the bitterness of rapini. It is not astringent, and it is fabulous when sauteed with garlic. I only hope that more cultivars are introduced/re-discovered as we decrease the zone from which we buy our produce. I have given this some thought and have foolishly thought about where to find where the most diverse fruit and vegetables are grown so I can mark my territory and always be well-fed. In all seriousness, I suppose we will get by with what we have and maybe appreciate it more.

Lydia said...

When I first tasted rapini I thought it was too bitter, but it is definitely an acquired taste, and I've finally acquired it. Now I love it!

Lucy said...

Indeed Susan, we simply need to adjust our concept of 'fast'. Diversity in diet, as in culture, life and farming, is essential to well-being. A meal, prepared with leftovers, some pantry items and something fresh, selected on the way home (like your sparklingly fresh rapini - so beautiful!) is just as fast, and certainly more likely to be classified food!

And of course, this is a complete protein meal for the vegetarian. Wonderful. Great post.

kathryn said...

I've been eating a variation of this for lunch most of the week - it started out as curly kale with lima beans and basmati rice and has morphed today into silverbeet with tomato, barley and a poached egg on top.

I love this kind of recipe - so flexible and adaptable to what's in the fridge. Your dish with rapini looks gorgeous.

Kalyn said...

I love rapini, but I have a very hard time getting my favorite markets to carry it in Salt Lake. They don't seem to know what it is, and even after my careful explanation, one store ordered broccolini for me instead. But sometimes our farmer's market has some, and it opens today! This sounds like the perfect way to eat it. Great recipe!

Susan said...

Hi, Nora. I love chickpeas, too. They are so versatile in many world cuisines. I finally "discovered" besam in my grocer a few years back and am learning just how well it works in sweet and savory recipes.
Thanks, Truffle. Welcome! This dish is just brimming with colorfully good health. I'm sorry that we've eaten every last grain, but it's nothing that can't be cured with another 20 minutes. Thanks for coming to visit.
Who knows, Shaun, how this all will shake out? These are all grand ideals that I unequivocally support, but the world's population and its demands are so huge, it's hard to imagine we'll stop mass production any time soon. All we can do is our share, and hope, as you say. I do agree that we appreciate more when we have less; it's the feast/famine thing.
Thanks, Lucy. Eating in this manner and home preparation are not only healthier but far more economical than the "cheap" junk food we are used to. This meal was very attractive in many ways and a good follow-up to the indulgences of my last post.
Hi, Kathyrn. Both of your ideas sound so darned good; just a few changes can spark interest. Kale! Thanks for reminding me. I haven't had kale in a while. I'll be shopping this weekend. Good to see you. Thanks!
Thanks, Kalyn. I hope you have good luck at the farmers' market. It's so exciting when they re-open for the season; so much to look forward to.

Ulrike said...

I've never tried rapini, I couldn't find it here.

Thanks for your WHB entry.

Cynthia said...

I have never had rapini, we don't get it in these parts and the broccoli that we get is of course imported.

Susan you write so eloquently, and I particularly like this line: we can still have our fast food and eat it too. The pun obviously being on fast food. :)

Johanna said...

you are so right about how we rediscover rather than discover new ways and ingredients - I was musing on this the other night - it is nice to feel part of a tradition in our world of rapid reinvention.

And I found your description of broccoli rabe interesting - I had thought it was what we call broccolini here but now I am les sure and will need to investigate further.

Susan said...

Ulrike - I look forward to your round-up.

Thanks, Cynthia. I KNEW you would enjoy a good pun when you read one! I do love playing
with words.

Johanna - Fashion tends to operate the same, but with a much faster revolving door.

Simona said...

Colorful, delicious and healthy: what more can we ask from a dish? Thanks.

Sandeepa said...

Have never cooked with Brocolli Rabe before, don't know why I always skip it. How bitter is it ? I wonder...

Patricia Scarpin said...

What a delicious recipe, Susan - I just need to find out if we have rapini here in Brazil. I love it that you used chickpeas, they're so great!

Freya and Paul said...

I really, really like things with favourite tinned vegetable/pulse!
Oh, and the rabe looks lovely too!

Nanditha Prabhu said...

being a vegetarian , this would be the right recipe i would love to eat!
chick peas and brown rice are my favorites!

Susan said...

Welcome, Simona! I agree. This is simplicity at its best.
Sandeepa - It is mildly to moderately bitter made more palatable by boiling in water first and then cooking in some oil, spices, and either rice, noodles and/or pulses.
Thanks, Patricia. Perhaps you can find it since broccolini is available there. I can't sing chick peas' praises enough in all sorts of dishes.
Hi, Freya. Chick peas are probably my favorite pulse, too, but I am rather fond of dal as well.
Hello, Naditha. There is no shortage of choices for the vegetarian diet. I know how much Indian cooking relies on chickpeas. So do I.

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