Broccoli Rabe & Garlic Scapes with Wehani Rice, Topped with Fresh Goat Cheese

As part of a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) share in the biodynamic bounty of Roxbury Farm [www.roxburyfarm.com/] in historic Kinderhook (Columbia County), New York, I was pleased to receive a bunch of broccoli rabe with the second delivery of produce for this 2011 growing season.  The Joy of Cooking [http://catalog.simonandschuster.com/] by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker (New York, NY: Scribner, 1997), a handy and reliable resource for the kitchen, includes an excellent general discussion on “Greens” and notes that “turnip greens and broccoli rabe (rapini, broccoli rape, broccoli raab, broccoli di rape)” are “forms of turnip leaves (rapa means turnip in Italian) and, when young, can be used like arugula.”  But with their “mustardy bite, sometimes with a touch of sweetness” (at page 203, Joy of Cooking), I decided not to use the broccoli rabe, like arugula, in a tossed salad, especially since my dinner guest is favoring a fairly bland diet of late.

When I picked up our CSA share at a neighbor’s home, which serves as a distribution point for Roxbury Farm CSA in Albany in upstate New York, the knowledgeable overseer of the distribution to the 81 shareholders at this particular location, advised that before sautéeing broccoli rabe, I should first quickly parboil the rabe to remove its “bitterness,” which likely is another way to refer to “a mustardy bite.”  I decided that after removing the broccoli rabe’s bitterness by parboiling, I would prepare the fresh broccoli rabe in a way similar to how the wonderful Lombardo’s Restaurant [www.lombardosofalbany.com] in downtown Albany, a popular Italian restaurant for many decades (since 1933 as it says on its menu), prepares sautéed spinach.  But instead of using garlic like Lombardo’s Restaurant does for its sautéed spinach, I decided to substitute garlic scapes, which are bountiful this time of year in my home garden.

My love of garlic, “one of the oldest-known cultivated crops,” has resulted in an ever-expanding portion of my backyard garden being planted up with that easy-to-grow “flavoring agent for virtually all cuisines,” which has “been associated with mythology and magic, along with a host of different superstitions” (page 144, Edible, An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2008, www.nationalgeographic.com/books).  But it was too early in the growing season to have the “magic” of garlic from my backyard garden to flavor the broccoli rabe tonight.  Instead, it made sense to find a way to use up some of my supply of garlic scapes.  I had earlier in the day clipped another dozen of these curly tipped, green shoots that grow from heads of garlic to keep them from going to flower (which would limit the growth of the garlic bulbs).

In addition, to make the rabe more of an entrée, I decided to prepare organic Wehani rice, a special variety developed by California’s Lundberg Farm from seed that came originally from India.  Wehani rice’s long amber-red grains are similar to wild rice in texture and to brown rice in flavor.  Although the Wehani rice was priced at $4.19 per pound, substantially more than the organic Long Pine long grain brown rice on sale for $1.49 (usually $1.89), or the organic Lundberg long grain brown rice ($2.09 per pound) in the bulk foods section of  my local food co-op, the Honest Weight Food Coop [www.hwfc.com] in Albany, N.Y., the fluffy, long-grain texture, nutty flavor and reddish color of cooked Wehani rice is a perfect grain to complement the broccoli rabe, some of nature’s earliest green bounty from the 2011 growing season in upstate New York.

Sauteed broccoli rabe topped with goat cheese:

1 bunch of broccoli rabe
2 garlic scapes
¼ cup olive oil
4 ounces Vermont Creamery [www.vermontcreamery.com/] fresh goat cheese (priced at a reasonable $7.25 for 10.5 ounces at the Honest Weight Food Co-op)

Wehani Rice:

1 cup of organic wehani rice
2 to 2½ cups of water
2 tablespoons of olive oil
(Four generous servings)

Slice the broccoli rabe into pieces, removing any tough stems.  Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, and boil the broccoli rabe for a few seconds and drain.  Saute chopped-up scapes in ¼ cup of olive oil for 2-3 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.  (I use Napa Valley Naturals organic olive oil, www.napavalleytrading.com.  According to the bottle, this extra virgin and organic, first cold pressing, olive oil was “from California’s Sacramento Valley and Argentina’s Cordoba Valley.”  [I had purchased the olive oil on sale at the local food co-op for $9.99.  The 25.4 ounce bottle, which is regularly priced at $15.99 at the co-op, was a nice bargain at the sale price.] )  Add broccoli rabe to the scapes and cook over low heat for an additional 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Prepare Wehani rice by bringing 2 to 2 ½ cups of water with two tablespoons of olive oil to boil.  Rinse 1 cup of Wehani rice in cold water and drain and add to boiling water. Turn down to very low heat and cook until all the water is absorbed, 40 minutes or so. Do not lift cover before the end of cooking.  Let stand for 5 additional minutes to ensure absorption of liquid.

Serve the sautéed broccoli rabe and scapes on the Wehani rice, and top with cubed fresh Vermont Creamery goat cheese (FW Barrie, 6/27/11).

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