Monday, March 30, 2015

Recipe: Rapini Namul, a Broccoli Rabe Side Dish

Korean inspired Broccoli rabe with tossed with fetuccine pasta — this rapini side dish goes a long, long way.

Good evening Verrazano
 Last night I made a batch of rapini namul to use as pizza topping. Pizza has become an important part of our Sunday viewing of “The Walking Dead” with our friend Jenn in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Luckily for us Bay Ridge is never short on great pizza.

Rapini (broccoli rabe) is an Italian cruciferous vegetable from the same family as as broccoli, kale and mustard; it’s grown for its tight green florets and tender leaves. It has a nutty, peppery flavor with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It’s a very healthy green rich in vitamins A, C and K, and minerals potassium, calcium and iron. I love the way it tastes when it’s cooked and seasoned properly. My friend Elaine’s mother, Lena Cardella, showed me the proper Southern Italian way to prepare rapini, which I’ll gladly share.

Namul is a Korean style of preparing highly seasoned vegetables— first steamed or stir-fried then tossed with a combination of seasoning which include roasted sesame seed oil, soy sauce or salt, vinegar, fresh garlic, sliced scallion greens, Korean chilies and toasted sesame seeds. It’s usually served as along with small side dishes that accompany the main meal— in our case New York style thin crust pizza. Here’s a recipe for making one of my favorite Korean-Italian fusion foods.

A Korean-Italian side dish from Brooklyn served with a French omelet— how's that for world class dining?
Rapini Namul
  • 1 pound rapini (broccoli rabe)
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, prepared and divided
  • 1 1/2 tbsp roasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh Korean chili, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp white sugar or 1 tsp honey (optional)
  • large skillet (14") with a lid, you can also use a large pot
Prepare the rapini: cut the blossom ends three inches down into the stem; remove and reserve the leaves from the stalk; cut the stem into pieces that are 2 to 3 inches long. This next preparation is important: with a small knife or vegetable peeler, peel the woodiest part of the stems. This will remove most of the bitterness and bring out the natural sweetness when it cooks. Wash everything well and and drain fro 20 minutes in a colander or run through a salad spinner.
Thinly slice two cloves of the garlic and divide into equal portions; crush the third clove. To flavor the olive oil, heat skillet on medium and add olive oil and the crushed clove. When the garlic clove turns a golden color, remove from the pan and discard. Toss rapini and half the amount of sliced garlic with salt, place in the pan and cover. Steam for three to four minutes or until the volume is reduced by a third. Remove cover and stir-fry until blossom ends are firm yet fork-soft. Transfer contents to a metal bowl to cool or set into and ice bath.

When rapini has cooled toss with sesame seed oil, rice wine vinegar, the remaining portion of sliced garlic, toasted sesame seeds and sliced Korean chili; adjust the flavor to taste. If you prefer a little sweetness, add sugar (if you’re vegan) or honey and toss. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Rapini namul will keep refrigerated for about five days. Enjoy it as a side dish or a topping for rice and pasta (or pizza).

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