Friday, January 13, 2012

"Nanni's Broccoli Rabe" Recipe & Story By My Guest Blog Writer

Hi readers! This week’s post is written by my guest writer, Vincent, who is my cousin Ellen’s husband. He wrote this story about his visit to my grandmother’s apartment and her recipe for Broccoli Rabe. I have written about my Nanni before in earlier posts as she was a mentor to me in many ways. She definitely had a flare and her style was very unique. I remember when I was younger, she never used a recipe to cook. She would usually add whatever she had in her pantry and fridge to create a meal that was very satisfying.

My recipe this week, is called “Nanni’s Broccoli Rabe,” which she taught Vincent how to cook. Broccoli Rabe is a common vegetable in the cuisine of Southern Italy, especially in Sicily. This vegetable is described as having a nutty, bitter, and pungent flavor. Broccoli Rabe is also a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, and iron.

 Ellen, Vincent, & Nanni
So, please enjoy Vincent’s story as well as trying “Nanni’s Broccoli Rabe” recipe. I also want to thank Vincent for writing such a memorable and colorful story about our Nanni.

“The apartment was really from a different world. The baby Jesus sat in a glass shrine in the bedroom. The ceilings were high, there were antique molding on the walls and the rooms were filled with dark old world furniture. I was visiting my girlfriend’s 82 year old Sicilian grandmother at her apartment in Queens, NY. The midday light struggled to filter into the rooms past the heavy ornate draperies. Nanni was not like any 82 year old woman I had ever met. She had manic energy, flitting about her apartment showing us memorabilia and photos from her younger life, talking non stop, simultaneously sizing me up and whispering her assessments to Ellen. She was wearing a blue patterned housecoat, but she wore it like it was a dress from a fine store, and carried herself upright and proud. At some point we all became hungry and she mentioned she had some Broccoli Rabe, which she offered to cook. I think she knew, that her energy and youthfulness at her advanced age was amazing, so every once in a while she would throw in some detail of her regimen as if she was trying to offer advice about how to live as long and as well as she had. The Broccoli Rabe was spoken of not only as a delicious dish but also as a life prolonging medicine.

I had been cooking with my mother in her kitchen since an early age, and by reflex I started to help her clean and trim the vegetable--I picked up a knife to cut the tough lower stalks. She gave me a look, and stopped me. “No you never cut them,” she said, “the stalk will break where it is tender.” Then she demonstrated, taking one of the florets in one hand and the stalk in the other, bending it slowly, until it just broke, and then throwing the good part into the bowl, the tough part into a waiting brown bag to discard. In a skillet she put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat, and sliced a few cloves of garlic into the warming oil. While the oil was still warming she put the Broccoli Rabe in the skillet and turned up the heat to high, continuing to stir with a wooden spoon. After the pan was getting quite noisy from the searing Broccoli Rabe she poured in about a cup of chicken stock, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and let the mixture come to a boil. Then she lowered the heat to a simmer, put a cover on the pan and let it cook for about 10 minutes.

My Grandmother "Nanni"
We sat at her ornate dining room table, the three of us, and enjoyed the meal and the continuing conversation. She looked at me closely and said she thought I looked like a young Gregory Peck. I did not know what to say, so I just thanked her and smiled, that seemed to be enough. Soon the meal and conversation was over, we said our goodbyes, and left her apartment. Though she lived many more years, that was the first and last time I had a chance to spend time with her cooking. I found out recently, that very few people in the family had ever been able to get her to share information on her recipes. This took place about 25 years ago and I still make Broccoli Rabe the way she taught me, simple, with family around, and a lot of bantering conversation to season the dish.”

Nanni’s Broccoli Rabe

2 bunches Broccoli Rabe (about 2 pounds)
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup of chicken stock
A pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt to taste

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced garlic to heated oil, cook until just beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add Broccoli Rabe, toss to combine and sauté. Now add chicken stock carefully and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook, till boiled on high heat. Then lower heat to simmer, cover pan, cook for about 10-15 minutes. Season to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves: About 8 people.

Till Next Time……………

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