The lines are getting more and more blurred in our house, but anything goes has served us well in these confused times. Especially when it comes to food: dinner for breakfast, breakfast for dessert and there is no distinction between national cuisine at the table.
The “authentic” product used in a particular dish or kitchen has fallen by the wayside, and our eating habits are determined more by what is nearby, available and in season. In this pandemic period, localism is proving to be fundamental to the performance of each community and access to fresh food is an important factor.
We are fortunate to cultivate in mineral-rich soil with a growing season all year round. This means that the land has a variety of variety, so we have many different products to try – I am thinking of renaming the Potager Sans Frontières farm, because we can travel momentarily to unknown lands, tasting its vegetables.
I think that most experienced gardeners end up following this path – the challenge of growing unknown species or varieties is too exciting not to be interested. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t like the resulting vegetable / fruit and it enriches the compost pile.
This season, I found pieces of rapini (also known as Arabian broccoli, friarielli, broccoletti) around the farm. Possibly they came from some seeds lost in the Sicilian Violet cauliflower package, or are a remnant of inactive seeds from last spring’s crop that germinated in the compost pile.
However, he found his way back. I am delighted to see the delicious pieces of iridescent green again. It is very easy to distinguish between rapini and other brassicas with larger heads; at this time of the year, it throws large extended sheets of dark blue-green and a little deep magenta stain along the central vein.
Rapini is compact and compact, with large leaves with battlements that protect a small floret full of yellow stars. They can be mistaken for wild mustards, especially when they are in bloom, but a clear distinction is that they are not as thin and their stems are much more succulent.
Despite the erroneous reference from broccoli to broccoli, he is actually a close relative of the turnip. Like most brassicas, it thrives in the cold – the colder the climate, the sweeter it is, so in the mild winter of northern NSW rivers, our rapini has a pleasant bitterness. It contains high levels of sulforaphane and indoles, essential vitamins A, K and C, in addition to a good dose of folate, calcium and a higher fiber content than broccoli.
Rapini in bloom ‘full of yellow stars’. Photography: Angelafoto / Getty Images / iStockphoto
I ate in pasta, pizza, sautéed and in soups – mostly with Mediterranean flavors, doing little more than adding fats, garlic, salt and lemon. Lately, I have been cooking with green garlic that has shot and grows alongside, perfect companions in the soil and on the plate.
For seven dinners a week, at least three or four are tinged with Asian trends – and since rapini is at its peak at the moment, I have also adapted it to these cooking methods.
My mother was the queen of inventive cooking, she rearranged the ingredients, exchanging basil for basil in a skillet, peas for eggplant in a curry. This was done out of necessity more than anything.
Then the rapini had my version of the Goma-ae treatment (steamed, strained and dressed with soy sauce, mirin, sake and sesame) and in a jor phak kaard soup – perhaps one of my favorite soups of all time. Traditionally made with another brassica, yu choy – a mustard with flowers not unlike rapini – is a simple, classic soup from northern Thailand that rarely takes a look anywhere else. If you find yourself like us here, with some wild cherry tomatoes growing like crazy, confused that it’s winter, put it on.
Jor phak kaard
Makes 4 withdrawals
250gr of soft pork rib / pork belly / pork rib, cut into small pieces
3 cups of water
6 small red steps, cut into quarters
12 peeled garlic cloves
16 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 lemongrass, cut into 10cm pieces and crushed with the tip of the knife
2 tablespoons of shrimp paste
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon of best quality fish sauce
4 tablespoons of tamarind concentrate
6 large and roasted red peppers in the wok
1 kg of rapini, cut into 10 cm pieces
In a mortar and pestle, garlic, scallops, salt and shrimp paste to form a rough paste. Bring the water to a boil and add the pork, cook for 12 minutes.
Add the paste, lemon balm, cherry tomatoes and tamarind concentrate.
Cook for another five minutes, then add the rapini and boil for another five minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, but not completely tender and overcooked. Taste the soup and season accordingly. It may be salty enough for you, as it is – if not, add the fish sauce.
Turn off the heat and add the toasted peppers, crushing them lightly with your hands to release the seeds in the soup.