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Orecchiette Pasta and Tender Leaves of Broccoli Rabe
(Orecchiette E Broccoli Rabe)
Serves 4 as a first course, 2 or 3 as a main course
This dish is in the repertoire of every grandmother in Apulia. Maria Andriani's may be the tastiest one I have eaten. Maria makes her own orecchiette pasta, which gets its name from the ear it resembles, by combining equal amounts of wheat and durum flours with warm water and salt, but it isn't necessary to follow suit. Dried orecchiette are now available from many pasta makers. If you can't find broccoli rabe, substitute dandelion greens, if you like their bite, or broccoli, if you prefer a subtler taste.
1 to 1 1/2 pounds broccoli rabe
At least 4 quarts water
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 pound orecchiette
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
6 anchovy fillets under oil, drained and minced; or 2 to 3 anchovies under salt, rinsed and minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 fresh hot red pepper, minced
3 to 4 tablespoons best-quality extra, virgin olive oil2 to 3 ounces ricotta salata cheese
Wash the broccoli rabe well. Discard any thick stalks, peel the thinner stems and cut into 2-inch pieces. Roughly chop the tender sprouts and leaves of the broccoli rabe.
Bring a large pot with at least 4 quarts water to a rolling boil. Add coarse salt first, then the pasta. Orecchiette can take anywhere from 10 to 18 minutes to cook; check your package for cooking times. Add the broccoli rabe when 6 to 7 minutes remain so that the two cook together in the same water until both are tender.
Meanwhile, warm the olive oil over low-medium heat in amedium sauté pan, add the garlic and anchovies, mash them with a wooden spoon to a paste, and cook forabout 4 to 5 minutes, until the garlic is barely softened and beginning to turn golden. Add the red pepper flakes and continue cooking briefly. Taste for salt. Drain the pasta and broccoli rabe, toss them into the pan with the anchovies and garlic, and mix together well.
Transfer to a heated serving platter, toss with the best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, grate the ricotta salata cheese over the top, and serve immediately.
Peppery Beef Stew
Serves 4 to 6
What could be easier? Toss five ingredients into a pot and cook for about 3 hours. Just be sure that you use beef cut from the shank and that you cook it in a terracotta or heavy enameled casserole so that the meat can cook slowly and steadily. If you don't have such a casserole, lower the oven temperature to 350ºF. or even 325ºF. If you have a wood, burning oven, all the better. Although the amounts of both garlic and pepper seem immense, they mellow during the long, slow cooking and melt into the glaze of meat at the end.
The spicy Tuscan dish, which comes from Impruneta just outside Florence, gets its name from the word for pepper, which is present in copious amounts, along with equally vigorous quantities of garlic and red wine. Why all the pepper? Perhaps because it encourages everyone to drink lots of local Chianti. Serve the peposo with whole boiled potatoes, as some local nonne do, or with slices of grilled country bread.
3 pounds boneless beef cut from the shank, in 2-inch cubes
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 scant tablespoon black peppercorns: do not grind but chop coarsely in a mortar, a nut grinder, or a wooden bowl
1 bottle (750 ml) Chianti wine; a hearty red, such as a Zinfandel or Sangiovese, would be a good substitute
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Put the meat, garlic, salt, and pepper in a heavy 4-quart ovenproof pot, preferably one of terra-cotta, and pour in the red wine so it just covers the meat. Cover the pot with a lid, and cook for about 3 hours, until the meat is soft and the sauce almost creamy. If a lot of liquid remains, reduce the sauce over low heat or in the oven until it is thick and creamy, about 35 minutes. The dish reheats in a 300ºF oven, although you will need to add extra broth.
Variation: Make the same dish with veal stewing meat cut from the shank.