The start of November has been interesting. We have had rain, mist, sun, humidity, breezy days, still nights, and yet it is beautiful - even if Mother Nature cannot make up her mind. Today as I walked my girls there were leaves cascading though the air and a thick blanket of heathered grey clouds moved so quickly overhead. Days like these remind me of the autumn of my childhood years walking around the block with my mom (in Garfield N.J.) collecting leaves for some school art projects. Although today I was not collecting leaves for any art projects, but I was taking in the fresh air reminding myself how good it is to be outside. The fresh air and a long walk was just what I needed. Work has been draining and the stress of worrying about family affected by the hurricane all adds up. Fresh air and a beautiful day does a body (and mind) lots of good.
Often when I am out on my walks I work a recipe to two through my head. I think about the season and what I can cook to reflect it. I think about what is fresh, what is tasty, and what Brian or I might be craving?!? In the past week I have been thinking a lot about my mom’s cooking. The flavors of her kitchen are sometimes hard to duplicate but I love trying. I was walking through the market to pick up some milk when I saw that they had Rapini. Wow, I do not think anything else at that moment could have connected me to the thoughts of my mom’s cooking and my memories of her kitchen growing up any better.
Rapini (AKA Broccoli Rabe) is a bitter leafy green with small broccoli like florets. My mom often sautéed it with garlic and olive oil and served it with Italian sausage. Sometimes my mom made it with some marinara sauce and tossed it with spaghetti. It was not uncommon for my mom to also make me a sandwich for the next day with the leftovers of the Rapini. She would fill a hard roll with the Rapini, along with some ham…I so loved those sandwiches! Although, I was not going to make one of those sandwiches with my Rapini; I opted to sauté it with some tomato puree, garlic, and crushed red pepper. When it was done I placed it over some boiled Faro. I like to use the Faro in a dish like this because it keeps its texture. It's a nice and sturdy grain against the tender Rapini. It is great all on on it's own, but you can serve it with some juicy pork chops or griddled sausage. Comforting, delicious, and tasted so much like it came out of my mom’s kitchen. You cannot get any better than that. You have to give it a try. You might hear my mom shout “Mangia!” when it is ready. It is that good!
Rapini with Faro (serves 4)
1 bunch of Rapini
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
generous pinch of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup of olive oil
7 - 8 whole tomatos (about 1/2 a 28 oz can), pureed
1 1/2 cup of water
Sea Salt and Fresh Black Pepper
1 cup of Faro
First, trim about and inch or two off the bottom of your Rapini. Cut the remanding Rapini into about 2 - 3 inch pieces. Place them in a large bowl full of water and be sure to rinse it all well. Drain the Rapini and set aside to dry out a bit.
Next, place a large saute pan over medium heat. Once the pan is heated through add in your olive oil and be sure it coats the bottom of your pan. Once that is heated through add in your garlic and crushed red pepper stir until fragrant. Toss in your Rapini and stir well. Place a lid over it all and let it sit about two minutes. Remove the lid and you should see your Rapini wilted and bright green in color. Over this place your tomato puree and water; along with a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Stir it well and let it all simmer together uncovered.
Meanwhile, bring about 4 quarts of water to boil. Gently pour in your Faro and stir. Let it all boil together about 12 - 15 minutes. Before draining the water check to be sure your faro is cooked through. You are looking for it to be chewy, but not crunchy. If the grain begins to split that is fine, that sometimes happens when it is cooked through. Drain when done and place on a deep serving platter.
Finally, your Rapini has been simmering for about 20 minutes. The Rapini should be fork tender and the liquid should be partially evaporated. Taste it to adjust your seasoning. When you have seasoned it to your liking pour it over your Faro and serve. Be sure to have a large spoon to serve it with together all the lovely sauce that has be created and enjoy!
*Note: if you cannot find Faro you can try this with Barley or even Brown Rice. Just check on their cooking instructions and continue with the recipe as instructed.