Sunday, August 20, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging #46

This week we find ourselves in a different kitchen as Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by Anthony from Anthony's Kitchen.

The subject for this post comes straight from the local farmer's market - an uncommon item in these parts, if not this country but quite the norm in traditional Italian cuisine. It's heritage is probably what drew me to it - though I must say it's "wild" and dishevelled appearance clinched the deal.

This rather unusual posy is Cavolicelli.


It's English translation isn't quite as lyrical, just plain old wild broccoli stems. These are in fact cultivated though they come from the "wild seed".

A lot of people would probably baulk at broccoli let alone the stems - it's another of those misunderstood and unloved vegetables like Brussels sprouts.

Broccoli is a vegetable I quite long as it's not overcooked (that is a mantra for many things in the kitchen!). One of the best bits of the plant is the stem rather than the head - taste-wise and nutritionally. The leaves and stem contain loads of Vitamin A - just one cup contains three times the recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin A.

To get the most out of Broccoli choose the smaller heads - the stems will be more tender and the heads not as bitter as the larger, older ones. People do throw the stems away but if you cut away the tougher outer skin you'll find a really sweet and tender core. Cut this into finger thick batons and use them in a stir-fry or boil them with the florets.

Having strayed off the topic, time to return to the Cavolicelli.

How do you prepare cavolicelli?

Preparation is fairly straightforward. If the stalks seem tough, then just cut them away - you'd leave the younger, flexible shoots as they are.

Boil them in salted water until tender, somewhere between 5 - 10 minutes. They will turn a deeper shade of green as they cook.

Drain immediately and squeeze out any remaining water.

There are a few traditional ways with this vegetable - one would be with pasta - boiled shoots would be tossed through a burnt butter sauce just before adding the cooked pasta and serving, this is best with a long style of pasta like Fettucine. Another is a Sicilian speciality - Frittelle di Cavolicelli, simply Cavolicelli fritters - to an egg, flour and parmesan base, roughly chopped boiled shoots are added, then cooked as per usual.

Finally, the method I'll be doing, Cavolicelli Aglio Olio - Cavolicelli with Garlic Oil.


Cavolicelli Aglio Olio/Cavolicelli with Garlic Oil

1 bunch Cavolicelli, cleaned
2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
olive oil
freshly ground salt and pepper
shaved Grana Padano

Once you've cleaned and removed any hard stalks, place them in rapidly boiling salted water. Boil, with the lid off, for 5 - 10 minutes until tender.

Drain and refresh under cold water to stop the cooking process. Using your hands, press between your palms to squeeze out all remaining water. Set to one side.

In a non-stick saucepan, add a dollop of good olive oil and drop in the 2 cloves of unpeeled garlic. Over a very low heat you want to gently sauté the garlic in it's skin until it's extremely soft. This should take a good 10 minutes - the skin will get crispy, keep swirling the garlic in the oil, turning it over to ensure it's evenly cooked. This slow process results in a "sweeter" garlic. Remove the cloves from the oil, they should be soft enough that if you press the base the clove will escape like toothpaste from a tube.

Use the back of a fork to mash these cloves into a smooth paste. Return this paste to the pan and oil, stir to break it up into the oil then add the boiled Cavolicelli. Turn the heat up slightly and sauté - keep the Cavolicelli moving, you don't want them to colour, you just want them to absorb the flavours and heat up.

Grind over with salt and pepper and just before you take it from the heat, sprinkle in a little Grana Padano - give it quick toss, to allow the Grana to melt slightly before placing it into a serving dish.

Top with a few more shavings of Grana - serve immediately.

This is a great match for Roast Chicken.

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  1. Quite exotic Haalo! You make sure you bring out something exotic each week for WHB-Thanks for all the enlightenment :)

  2. Great post for WHB! I'm not 100% sure, but from your photo this looks like what is called broccoli rabe or rapini here. I can hardly ever find it in the stores, but I get it at the farmer's market once in a while. I really like the taste of this a lot. Your idea of garnishing with shaved cheese sounds wonderful.

  3. Thank you Nandita - it's great fun trying out different produce and a good way to bring some more variety to our diets.

    Thanks Kalyn - you could be right there, it does look quite similar. This is probably the first time I've seen it in a commercial situation, usually it's found in a relatives back yard! The Grana is more creamy and nutty than the Parmigiano-Reggiano and it works well with the flavours of the Cavolicelli.

  4. Love this kind of cooking - and I love the new name you've found for broccoli!

  5. Thanks Jen - I have a suspicion that it might it's name in an Italian dialect.

  6. I do that with the stems all the time.

    Looks great.

  7. That's excellent Coffeepot - another that knows the deliciousness of broccoli stems!

  8. great! i am a sicilian australian from sydney - been eating this stuff all my life - in dialect we call it caulicedda - the name differs village to village my mum tells me. try it fried up (after boiling) with chopped up fatty fennel sausage, litte chilli garlic, salt, pepper and serve on italian bread or tossed thru spagetti - make sure u use olive oil for the frying!!!! ciao stag


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