If you read between the lines of my last few posts, you’ll notice that I haven’t really been cooking. Not only did I move from one ocean to the other, but I also started a glamorous new lifestyle — freelancing. By glamorous, I mean that it’s an effort to put on pants in the morning or to take showers or to sit somewhere other than my permanent assprint on the couch. With no one holding me accountable for needing to be anywhere at a certain time, I’m adrift. If I were organized and strict with myself, I could be my own best mother, but alas, I have no self-control and can easily waste an entire day without leaving the couch.
It seemed awesome, at first, but after hours and hours in front of a running slideshow of television reruns, emails, and my facebook news feed, I sometimes caught myself staring out the window with my mouth hanging open. I had lots of headaches. I felt sad and anxious and lazy as hell. I worried that my brain might actually be atrophying.
So I’ve been forcing myself into a schedule: get up early (even though I don’t actually have to), get dressed, get ready as if I’m leaving the house (even if I don’t end up actually doing so), make some effing coffee, and sit down to work. Turn off the computer for all meals. Go to the library or to a coffeeshop to work, where people will judge me if I’m sitting there in my underwear drooling in front of the computer. Work out. Cook dinner. Leave the computer off.
As a part of forcing myself to be a human being, I’ve been cooking lots of things I’m familiar with. Trying to get my shit together and getting to know a new city is stressful enough without having to try new vegetables. But I felt obligated to you, dear readers, and to my stomach, to try something new again.
I’ve had this recipe for orecchiette pasta (the little oval-shaped ones) with chicken sausage and broccoli rabe open on my computer for weeks, and finally decided to go for it, even though I have no idea what in the hell broccoli rabe actually is. (By the way, the Skinny Taste website is a great resource for tasty, healthy recipes. Highly recommended.) The ingredients are simple: pasta, chicken sausage, the broccoli rabe (?), chicken broth, parmesan cheese, garlic, and red pepper flakes. I knew I’d seen broccoli rabe at the grocery store (or at least, seen something bundled with a tag that read “broccoli rabe,”) but up until doing the research for this recipe I thought it was spelled like it’s pronounced: “broccoli robb.” Apparently not. Already a few negative points for this new vegetable.
At Safeway, I walked up and down the produce aisle at least five times, peeking in corners and smelling various things. I’d forgotten to google the vegetable beforehand, so I had no idea what I was looking for. I finally asked an employee, who thought I meant broccolini, and went to get the resident produce expert (who happened to be named Rob). For an expert, Rob really didn’t seem to know much of anything. He kept trying to push broccoli on me as if I’d somehow gotten confused and that regular broccoli was what I actually wanted. I left Safeway empty-handed.
It took two different trips to Whole Foods before I finally found the elusive vegetable. It turns out, broccoli rabe is not actually broccoli at all—it’s an Italian leafy vegetable called rapini, with little flowers that look like broccoli. Broccoli rabe is basically a nickname.
The recipe itself seemed simple—boil some water, blanch the rapini for a few minutes to help tone down its alleged bitterness, then cook the chicken sausage while the pasta boils.
Take the chicken sausage out of the pan, cook the garlic, then add everything back together, add the broth, parmesan, and red pepper flakes, and you’re done. After I do this a few more times, I’ll probably get better, but there were so many moving parts that I was throwing shit around, banging pots and pans, burning myself with boiling water, stirring in two pans at the same time, and generally losing my mind.
I realized right near the end that I didn’t actually have any red pepper flakes, but because I’m a classy broad and I save those little packets from Little Caesar’s, I had some packets of red pepper flakes in the cabinet. Once again, being cheap pays off.
The flavors in this were delicious — the chicken sausage we found at Whole Foods was great, and the red pepper and garlic gave it lots of flavor without making it too heavy. The only problem was the effing broccoli rabe. That stuff is disgusting. Even after blanching, it was really bitter. The spice of the red pepper helped to cut it a little, but not much. I looked over at Charlie, and saw that he’d eaten all the broccoli rabe first. TO GET IT OUT OF THE WAY. It was as if the broccoli rabe was the punishment we had to endure to get to the good parts of the dish. Next time, I’d probably make it with spinach. Rob the Produce Expert at Safeway was right — it probably would’ve been better with regular broccoli. Never again with the broccoli rabe.
When we heated up the leftovers to eat, Charlie said, “Would it offend you if I ate everything but the broccoli rabe?” No. No it would not.