For the love of broccoli rabe

I don’t know what’g going on with the broccoli rabe, but it tasted better than it has ever tasted before. Sometimes I think the problem with broccoli rabe is, it’s old. A lot of people wheel by the broccoli rabe, take a look at it, maybe even pick it up, and then decide to go for what they usually get; the broccoli rabe can spend a good long time just waiting to be wanted and not getting any younger in the meanwhile.
I love it so much that I get tempted to have it even if it’s tired, but I forget how good it can be.
Look for dark green leaves and broccoli stalks–no light green and definitely no yellow. It should be kind of tight looking as a bunch. When it starts to give up the ghost, the tops will hang over like aging tulips. Bring a pot of water to the boil, add a good pinch of salt, a little pour of olive oil, and the rabe that has had its stems chopped off. A little bit of stem left at the bottom is fine. Cover the pot and cook at a simmer over low heat for about five minutes. Drain well. Heat up a pan of olive oil and for one bunch of rabe, add three whole cloves of garlic, cut in half. Let them go golden, add a few red pepper flakes (about five or six), and then the broccoli rabe. Stir around, season with a little kosher salt, and go easy, because remember the water they were cooking in was already salted. As soon as the rabe is heated through and tender, maybe 2 or 3 minutes, it’s done. If you have gorgeous olive oil and you want more of it on there, go ahead and give it another drizzle.
I served it with mashed new potatoes and tiny, tiny turkey meatballs. (cook the diced shallot or onion first– only a small one for a pound of meat–with a sprig of thyme or parsley and salt.) Rip up some bread and let it soak in heavy cream or whole milk. Add all of this to the ground meat, season with salt and a little ground black pepper. Brown them off in olive oil. Remove them from the pan. Dice another onion (you can do this with the first step and then just save about two thirds of the onion for the sauce instead of putting them into the meatballs.) Add a tab of butter. When the onions are irrisistable, sprinkle on just a tablespoon of flour, or none at all if you like a thinner sauce. Keep stirring for another three minutes, then add a half cup of stock, white wine or water. Two more minutes on high heat, then off the heat, swirl in a little more butter. Taste for salt.)

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