Spring is here and I know what you're thinking: asparagus, peas, ramps, rhubarb.
All true, but let's not forget broccoli rabe.
I know, it's not what most people think of when they think spring, (it's also a fall crop) but it's here in abundance after being wintered over. Spring broccoli rabe is actually sweeter than the fall plants, and you can often find them sprouting pretty yellow blossoms that are a joy to eat.
For the most part, I've always sauteed my broccoli rabe with garlic, olive oil, and chili flakes. And it's delicious. But I recently learned that just like its domesticated cousin, broccoli rabe is wonderful roasted. (Keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming video I shot for the New York Times for an up-close look at the technique.).
I wouldn't have thought so, I'd have assumed the tender leaves would burn to a crisp before collasping into a mushy heap. But they don't if your oven is hot enough (500 degress) and you use plenty of oil. Instead, those leafy bits can get soft and wilty in spots, and delightfully charred in others. Plus, like any other roasted veg, it's easy to do. And perfect when you've got the oven on for something else.
Two tips here: make sure your oven is good and blazing (pre-heated to 500°), and don’t over-crowd the pan—the broccoli rabe needs some room to roast right. (If the pan is over-crowded, the veggies will steam each other as they release their water.) After about 5 to 7 minutes in your super-hot oven, you’ll have a tray of irresistible, char-edged goodness. Pile it high on crostini smeared with good ricotta or a slick of olive oil, serve it hot as a side dish with just about anything, or enjoy it cold, almost like a salad with big curls of Parmigiano Reggiano and a squeeze or two of fresh lemon.
But make this soon, before it gets too hot to crank up the oven. Though at that point, we'll all be on to more summery produce. How many more days until tomato season?