Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grilled Escarole With Pecorino

Escarole is a great green but one that I have never cooked myself before—in part, gentle reader, because I often have trouble distinguishing it from lettuce at the market. On this occasion, however, the escarole was clearly marked, and I thought it would be perfect grilled as a complement to the lamb chops and butter beans I was making for dinner. So I decided to take a chance on an escarole-grilling escapade, and it turned out delicious.

This side dish was actually inspired by a delicious small plate from The Vanderbilt—one of The Rob’s and my favorite neighborhood spots—consisting of grilled escarole, hazelnuts, and as I learned when I looked it up after dinner, “Pecorino Ginepro”—which I’d never heard of before but turns out to involve flavors of balsamic vinegar and juniper berries. I happened to have pecorino romano on hand, but no hazelnuts—they’re great in this, though, or you could maybe try some toasted walnuts.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rigatoni With Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

This is one of your super-simple, quick weeknight one-dish meals. The balance of sweet, rich, spicy sausage with the bitter greens, the salty Parmesan, and the neutralizing pasta is a perfect harmony.

The secret to good broccoli rabe (or as we call it in our household, broccoli The Rob) is that you have to take the edge off the bitterness, either by “shocking” it in boiling water or siphoning it out into chicken stock or another liquid while sautéing. I find the former method to be more effective—as long as you don’t boil the greens for too long so they lose their crunch and flavor. It works great for pasta since you can just toss it into the same water.

Start by boiling a big covered pot of salted water. I like using one that comes with a lift-out colander basket, since it makes it super easy to lift out the broccoli rabe and then add the pasta into the same boiling water. But if you don’t have one you can use tongs to extricate it.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet or wide-bottomed stockpot over medium-high. Add a pound of loose sweet or hot Italian sausage—you can either buy it that way, or use a paring knife to slit the casings of a package of 6 tube-style sausages and “peel” them to extricate the filling.

Sauté the sausage, stabbing it with a wooden spoon to crumble it up into smaller chunks. (BTW, Stabbing to Crumble would be a great name for your new thrash-metal band. You’re welcome!)

When the sausage is cooked through (gray with brown spots; it’s okay if there are hints of pink still), lift it out of the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or a brown paper bag.