Friday, July 18, 2014

Free Range Friday ~ What is Broccoli Rabe, Anyway?

Earlier in the week I was lucky enough to enjoy some sausage made with lots of spices and broccoli rabe. I wouldn't have known the green was broccoli rabe until I was told, and while I've heard of it before, I've never had it on its own (along with a host of other things known and never tried, like fiddleheads for instance...oh, the food bucket list is long!). I've always thought I'd enjoy making sausage and I've done it, but not the way I'd like to, on a regular basis and exploring all the wonderful ingredient combinations possible.

I love the long coiled up-ness of this sausage. It is also smaller in diameter, more along the size of a breakfast sausage than a bratwurst. It was cut into bite sized pieces that quickly disappeared. So much flavor packed in this!
Does making your own sausage sound somewhat daunting? And yet, it's not really that complicated (this particular sausage was made by a well known butcher shop in the NE - and no, I can't remember the name but I'm working on it) once you assemble what you need. For sausage patties, the process is even more simple, but I like the idea of filling casings, the crunch and crispness before flavor from the filling explodes on the tongue.

First of all, you need the casings. I prefer natural casings, naturally. There is a ton of information on casings, but for a pretty specific read, check out Sausage Mania's post on buying and understanding what you will be working with. Or just learning about it. Learning is good.

Oh wait, broccoli rabe (pronounced raab), have I forgotten where I was going with this? No I have not. Not completely anyway.

photo credit - unknown
From Wikipedia: Rapini (commonly marketed in English as broccoli raab or rabe /rɑːb/) is a green cruciferous vegetable. The edible parts are the leaves, buds, and stems. The buds somewhat resemble broccoli, but do not form a large head. It is known for its slightly bitter taste, and is particularly associated with ItalianGalician, and Portuguese cuisines. Within Italian cuisine, the plant is heavily associated with Southern Italian cuisine (especially Neapolitan cuisine and the cuisines of Campania and Puglia) and Roman cuisine.

Most recipes involving rapini seem to involve sautéing it. A blog post on Smitten Kitchen (a wonderful food blog if you don't know about it, funny, real and clear) describes one recipe, Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Rabe, that is quick and looks very satisfying. What I like about this post is that she readily admits that this veg is a new one to her, still be learned about in her cooking repertoire. No superior 'What?! You don't know broccoli rabe? Heathen!' for this cook. We're all in this together. 

Plus, it's got lots of garlic in it. What's not to like? With these simple ingredients (ok, simple if you don't live on Culebra or if grow your own), it seems like a great introduction to this green in your life.

1 pound pasta, whatever shape you like (but chunky ones will match up better with the rabe)
1 pound broccoli rabe, heavy stems removed, remaining stems and leaves cut into 1- to 2-inch sections (I attempt to match my pasta in length)
1/2 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more or less to taste
About 1 heaping teaspoon Kosher salt (or more to taste)
To serve: Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

For what to do with the above, click on the link!

Back to sausage. Yes. What induced this shop to include broccoli rabe in their sausage? I have no idea, works. Really well. If you want to try to make your own, take heart from master meat cutter Nancy Kungel, “You don’t need to go out and buy a $2,000 piece of equipment,” Kungel said. “A hand grinder, some meat and a few spices will work just fine.” This article (from The Rapid City Journal),  gives a lot of information about the basics of sausage making, along with some recipes. I would love to take a class from Nancy Kungel, but I don't see Rapid City on my destination list anytime soon. Although I was there once and bought the most wonderful purple hiking boots, back in the very early 70's...

This recipe sounds simple and delicious. Add some broccoli rabe! 

Hot Italian Sausage - Nancy Kungel
5 pounds boneless pork butt (venison enthusiasts may substitute 4 pounds of venison and 1 pound of pork fat)
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1-1/2  tablespoons whole fennel seed
1 tablespoon whole anise seed
1/2  tablespoon coarse black pepper
1/8 cup sugar
1/2  cup cold water
Grind pork through medium plate. Combine pork with remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Stuff into casings and cook until center reaches 160 degrees.
Maybe you'll be lucky enough to come close to what we had. I hope so!

Buen provecho!!
Have a factorable Friday. Do something fittingly far flung.

p.s. The name of the place that makes the sausage is A & S Italian Fine Foods in Fairfield, CT. Definitely on the go-to list!


  1. Purple hiking boots?? I can see you in those, maybe with Daisy Duke cut-off jeans. ;-))

  2. Wish I knew whatever happened to those boots, they were good'uns! I had cut off shorts but then it was jeans most of the time. And never EVER Daisy Dukes! Trust me, my sense of style has not improved or decreased over the years, unfortunately.