How can I be an old Italian hag, when I still look like this?
Recipe: Broccoli Rabe, Anchovy, and Ricotta Bruschetta
I’ve been eating so much broccoli rabe lately, I fear I may turn into a bitter old Italian hag. But I’m probably one already, so I might as well just continue to stuff myself. Seriously, I think what’s happening here is a yearning for cooked greens as I flip my food switch toward winter and away from cool salads.
It’s a mystery to me why anyone wouldn’t love broccoli rabe. It has a depth of flavor that creates an opulent mouth feel, especially when soaked in olive oil, which is really the only way to go. There’s no green better with pasta, and it blends so naturally with the many pork products like pancetta, salami, prosciutto, and capacolla that should be a staple of everyone’s diet, how can anyone resist? Lately, though, I’m liking my broccoli rabe with anchovy instead of pancetta. A wonderful dinner is a big bowl of broccoli rabe laced with anchovy, garlic, and chili, with a big glass of red wine and a big piece of toasted Italian bread. I’m not sure I would serve that for fancy company; they might think I didn’t like them. But when I’m alone and listening to Domenico Modugno sing his creation “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu” (aka “Volare”) in his charming light smoker’s voice, it’s the best, a bittersweet mix of great food and light opera. The broccoli rabe has got to be very oily, steaming hot, and very garlicky. It’s what my mother would call a family meal. If by any chance you’re having fancy company, try this bruschetta instead. It’s still drippy enough, but at least it’s got some formal structure to it.
Broccoli Rabe, Anchovy, and Ricotta Bruschetta
(Serves 8 as a first course or an antipasto offering)
2 bunches broccoli rabe, well stemmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 fresh, hot chili, minced
4 anchovies, minced
A pinch of ground cumin
A pinch of ground allspice
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup whole milk ricotta
2 tablespoons pecorino Toscano cheese
1 loaf round, crusty Italian bread, cut in half and then into 14 slices (2 per person)
Fill a big pot with water, and bring it to a boil. Add a little salt, and then drop in the broccoli rabe. Blanch for about 3 minutes. With a strainer spoon, scoop the broccoli rabe from the water into a colander, and run cold water over it to stop the cooking and bring up its green color. Then squeeze as much water from it as possible. Then give it a few chops, so you have smaller pieces.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, the chili, and the anchovies, and sauté for a few seconds. Add the broccoli rabe, and season with salt and the cumin and allspice. Sauté until it’s all well coated with oil and just tender to the bite. Add the white wine, and let it boil away. Now add a splash of warm water, and turn off the heat.
Mix the grated pecorino into the ricotta.
Toast the bread pieces on both sides, and spread one side of each with a layer of the ricotta. Spoon some of the broccoli rabe on each toast and finish each one with a drizzle of fresh olive oil. Serve right away.