Broccoli Rabe and Citrus Salad

If you aren’t eating broccoli rabe, you’re missing out. You’ve likely seen it in the grocery or on restaurant menus. It goes by many names – broccolini, rapini, friarielli – and as it turns out, it isn’t actually broccoli. But it produces little florets that look like broccoli (as nearly all mustard flower clusters do), hence the reference. Unlike its bland cousin, rabe has an intense, sharp, and somewhat bitter taste reminiscent of other dark mustard greens.

We typically pan sauté rabe in olive oil, stems and all, with a pinch of chili flakes and a sliced clove of garlic. It’s delicious served warm with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of balsamic vinegar. It works well as a side dish, but we like it just as well featured on pizza or on one of the Tartine-inspired open-face sandwiches we prepare in our awesome Breville toaster oven.

Broccoli rabe’s bold flavors pair nicely with citrus, nutty olive oil and rich Pecorino cheese in this “last-of-the-season” salad. Finished with crunchy sea salt crystals and fresh cracked black pepper, this dish hits all the best taste marks.

Our thanks to veggie grower Andy Boy and recipe creator Julia della Croce for this tasty inspiration.

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Broccoli Rabe and Citrus Salad
Serves 4

1 bunch broccoli rabe, rinsed, ends of stems trimmed
2 blood oranges (we used Caracara oranges)
1 ruby grapefruit
2 ounces shaved manchego or pecorino cheese
Large flake finishing salt (we’re fans of Maldon sea salt flakes)
Good extra virgin olive oil

Blanch cleaned broccoli rabe in salted boiling water for approximately 30 seconds, remove from boiling water and plunge immediately into prepared ice bath. Once cooled, remove rabe from ice water and spin dry in a salad spinner or pat dry between towels. Set aside.

Peel citrus using a knife to remove all external skin and white pith. Slice citrus into quarter inch thick rounds.

Assemble salad by arranging broccoli rabe and citrus slices on a platter. Shave cheese over greens and fruit, drizzle with generous amounts of olive oil, sprinkle sea salt over everything and finish with a few grinds from the pepper grinder. Serve.

Radish Greens Pesto

Pesto is one of those wildly classical culinary gifts from the Mediterranean known the world over. At its Platonic base, pesto is composed of the freshest Legurian basil leaf, the most aromatic garlic, the purist virgin olive oil, the perfectly toasted pine nut, course sea salt, and the finest Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino sardo. It makes our mouths water just thinking about all that flavor. Each ingredient a flavor bomb on its own.

Like all classic sauces, pesto is an idea – open to endless possibility. A different choice in green, nut, cheese and even oil can dress up a piece of fish or roasted veggies, or maybe enrich a hot bowl of soup. The variability of pestos offers another vehicle for keeping those greens cycling through your refrigerator and into our food, rather than into the waste bin. In this version, we’ve taken the fresh, beautiful leaves from a bunch of radishes in place of basil. The resulting sauce was fresh and peppery, perfect tossed with whole wheat pasta or used in place of tomato sauce on homemade pizza.

Back in the day, cooks banged out a batch of pesto in a mortar. Today, our blenders make very quick work of building the sauce. Better yet, to save on cleanup and storage, we blend the pesto in a mason jar. The standard blender base fits a wide-mouthed mason jar. Once blended, you can use what you need and then store the unused portion in the jar. Whatever your flavors of choice, you can have a fresh bright sauce on the table in the time it takes to clean and prep the fresh ingredients.

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Radish Greens Pesto

2 bunches radish greens, cleaned
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 oz grated parmigiana
2-3 large cloves garlic
Zest of one lemon
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Add everything but the salt and pepper to a pint-sized mason jar, screw on the blade base of your blender and pulse to chop. Blend until incorporated, but not completely smooth. You want to see flecks of green and breaks in the oil emulsion. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.