A New Green
When you see the nonnas shoving each other out of the way down at the IGA, you know something’s going on. They could be offering free slices of sorpresa, there could be only one cash register open. Today it was that Mr Lamonica had just got back from the markets with something they really really wanted.
Rapé. It’s an Italian green, possibly related to broccoli, but looks like something that you’d find growing by the railway tracks. The nonnas weren’t even waiting for it to be unpacked, they were grabbing armfuls of it out of the boxes as they came in. Buying it by the trolley full.
I don’t generally buy my vegetables from Mr Lamonica, he goes for cheap over quality. I go to Frank. I bumped into a few friends at Frank’s who emboldened me to ask what’s the big deal with rapé? “Oh, it’s delicious!” said Frank’s daughter at the cash register. “We cook it with a little oil and chilli, and lots of garlic”. Well, anything tastes good cooked that way, but my friends convinced me to buy a bunch, cook it and blog about it, so here we are.
I think you can cook it in a very similar way to whole bok choy, but I want mine in smaller pieces. So I stripped off the smaller stalks, leaves and flowers, only leaving the large stalks at the bottom, into the Thermomix jug.
A very quick zap got them into more manageable sized pieces.
I tipped them out of the jug and into a bowl. I put in the jug a couple of cloves of garlic, three chillies, a slug of olive oil and a couple of local tomatoes I’d also picked up. Zapped those into a purée and cooked them at 100 degrees for four minutes on reverse speed two. I put in the rapé and a sprinkle of salt and cooked it for four minutes on a hundred degrees, also reverse speed two. I could have even got away with three minutes I think. It’s not much to look at.
It cooks down quite a lot. I think I like it. The stalks are very reminiscent of asparagus. I think the description for the leaves is bitter. It has that aftertaste you get from an expensive beer. Lucky I do like it, it comes in enormous bunches. I might cook it all up and put it in a selection from my new jar collection. I wonder if you could lightly pickle it? I’m a bit scared to Google it. I can tell you this, it’s a whole lot better than kale, that stuff tasted like horse blankets.
All green leafy vegetables become much more bitter after they flower. Harvesting them before flowering usually makes for a more mild dish. Also, it helps the flavor to look for young (that is, small) leaves with something like kale. Easier to do with a home garden. Plus at home, you can pick the flower buds before they open to keep the plant in a state if growing more (not so bitter) leaves…
The nonnas were after the flowering ones. Frank was muttering something about marijuana in the flower buds. But I think next time I’ll follow your advice. Though the taste may grow on me.