16 August 2012

AUNTIE PASTA: Simply Dee'licious

SARONNO, Italy - Even though wild greens are more of a spring vegetable than a summer one, you can often find them in the marketplace even during the summer months. In the spring, the fields in Italy are peppered with wild radicchio, erbe di campo, dandelion greens, wild lettuces, ciccoria, strighi and many more,  ready to be picked, cleaned, cooked and devoured. Yum.

Butcher Eataly, Torino, Italy
My father used to scour our lawn looking for young, tender dandelion greens for salad. He only cut leaves that didn’t have flowers or flower stalks as he said they were pass their prime. He only wanted the young, tender shoots, and when they made their way to our dinner table, there was no doubt he had chosen well.  

Here in Saronno I often see people scouring the fields behind their condominiums or stopping along the side of a road to walk through a field in search of edible greens.  There are probably delicious bitter greens growing right outside your door too, you just have to look for them.

One green that is found both in the wild and cultivated is cime di rapa. I think it’s called broccoli rabe or rapini in the United States, and it may have other names as well. It’s easy to identify as it has medium size green leaves and tiny broccoli like flowers. Just so I don’t get confused, I’m going to call it cima di rapa.
One of the most treasured Italian recipes is cime di rapa and orecchietti from that little bit of heaven on earth called Puglia, and another is today’s recipe, cime di rapa con salsiccia, cime with sausages.

Cima di rapa con salsiccia is a simple, easy recipe to prepare, almost as easy as cold pea soup http://thisitalianlife.blogspot.it/2011/08/auntie-pasta_25.html which is still high on my list of not just easy, but downright delicious Italian recipes. The basic idea is to clean and blanch the cime, sauté the sausage, put the two together 'come Dio commanda', as God ordains, as they say here in Italy and …… eat.
 Cime di Rapa aka Broccoli Rabe

1 clove of garlic
1 kilo (2 lbs) cime di rapa
2- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 peperoncino (or sprinkle of red pepper flakes)
500 grams (1 lb) spicy Italian sausage
To prepare cime di rapa with sausages start by cleaning the greens: wash them well and eliminate the stems and leaves that are not good. Cut the leaves in pieces, but keep the broccoli like tips whole (1-2).  Put the greens into salted boiling water for 5 minutes (3), then drain them.  

 In the meantime, cut the sausages into small pieces (4) and put them in a non-stick pan to brown (5). After a few minutes ass a couple of spoonfuls of the cooking water from the cime di rapa (6).  

Finish cooking the sausages (7). Peel and slice the garlic clove, and if you are using a whole red pepper, cut it into small pieces (8). In a frying pan put the extra virgin olive oil. Then put the garlic and half of the hot red pepper pieces in the frying pan and lightly brown the garlic. Then add the boiled cime (9) and let it cook in the garlic, red pepper infused oil for a few minutes, turning often. Serve hot with the crispy, brown sausages and enjoy.

You can also cut the sausage into smaller pieces and cook everything together in the same frying pan. Serve with some crusty Italian bread, a bottle of hearty red wine and you have a quick and easy and very dee-licious summer meal.

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