Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bruschetta with Rapini

Bruschetta con la rape

What we call rapini is cima di rape in Italy (rah-pay).  It's a cool weather green that has little broccoli flowerettes peaking through the stalks.  While my husband Bryan doesn't like broccoli, he will eat la rape.  It is often boiled and served with a drizzle of olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice as a refreshing side dish to the main course, or sauteed and served with orecchiette.  I put it to work as an antipasto, too.  It's always a hit, even with my veggie-picky husband.

You'll need:
a generous bunch of rapini
a clove of garlic
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
freshly grated parmigiano
crusty bread

Clean the rapini and strip the leaves and broccoli flowers from the stems.  Roughly chop them and put them in a large saucepan with a bit of water and salt.  Bring it to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes.  Drain well, squeezing the leaves in a tea towel or paper towels to extract the moisture.  (Reserve the stems, which can be trimmed and added to soups.)

Make the bruschetta:  Slice the bread and drizzle on a bit of olive oil.  Broil or grill until golden brown.

In a skillet or saucepan, heat about 2 tsp. olive oil.  Add the minced garlic and saute until softened but not browned.  Add the rapini and stir well, coating it in the olive oil, adding another drizzle if needed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar.  Combine well.  Top the bruschetta with the rapini.  Sprinkle on a little parmigiano cheese and serve.

Photo Credit: Uprising Seeds, where you can buy seeds to grow your own rapini.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Ratafia - Cherry Liqueur

This delicious wine-soaked cherry liqueur hails from the Abruzzo region, where we tasted it in a family-run trattoria in a splendid town called Sulmona.  Local Montepulciano and wild cherries were marinated together to create the perfect after-dinner digestivo.   The owner put the bottle on the table and invited us to help ourselves, then brought crunchy cherry-studded biscotti to dip into it.

I have learned that creating delicious liqueurs depends on the Biblical principle of 40 days and 40 nights - leaving the fruit and liquor to macerate that proverbial period of time draws out all the fruity goodness and makes luscious liqueurs!

Ratafia di Ciliegia

1 1/2 pounds pitted cherries
1 bottle Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
1 cup grain alcohol (or high-proof, good quality vodka)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 vanilla bean
a big glass jar or bottle that will seal well

Split the vanilla bean open and put it in the jar, along with the other ingredients.  Give it a shake and put it in a dark place for 40 days and 40 nights, shaking it gently every few days.  After the maceration period, strain it.

Combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan, bring to a gentle boil, stirring well to dissolve the sugar, then turn off the heat and let it cool.  Add it to the liqueur, stirring well.  Divide into bottles and keep in a cool, dark place. 

We prefer the pretty gasket-topped bottles as they seal better and make a nice presentation for gift-giving.

photo credit: Faynor Orchards