Do you grow broccoli rabe (also known as crimi di rapa, broccoli raab, turnip broccoli)? If you don’t, but have a veg patch, however tiny, please, consider it. In Joy Larkom´s classic `Grow your own vegetables` that makes most other gardening books redundant, it´s given three stars in “value for space” rating. It’s very fast growing (we harvested the first shoots 50 days after sowing, even though the weather has been unusually cold) and thanks to the succulent stems and tiny broccoli heads it’s a little more substantial than most of the spring veg that tends to be primarily leaves. It can be either sown early in the year, or later (July, August) as a very useful second crop. Late sowings are less prone to bolting. But the cold weather this year means that though the growth is slower, vegetables like broccoli rabe, mustards, spinach and radishes that appreciate cool weather are thriving.
As quick and easy as broccoli rabe is to grow, it is to prepare: stir-fried or steamed, with a bit of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, it is delicious. But I won’t lie to you: it doesn’t really appeal to kids. But pile it on a pizza smeared with béchamel, top with cheese and they are at least willing to try it.
I was a little sceptical about the béchamel sauce on pizza as I have not encountered it before, but it makes a soft bed for these virtuous greens. The recipe makes more béchamel sauce than you’ll need if only making 1 pizza, but you can keep the rest in the fridge and use later, either for another pizza or to go with pasta.
You can either use your usual pizza dough or go the “no-knead” way (highly recommended), but in that case you have to start the dough 18 hours in advance.
P.S. It is 17th May today, so to any Norwegians out there: Gratulerer med dagen!
Broccoli rabe pizza
From Jim Lahey: My Pizza
120 g broccoli rabe (about 5 stalks), tough ends trimmed, coarsely chopped
1 ball of pizza dough
60 g (¼ cup) Béchamel (see bellow)
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
30 g (about 1 ounce) provolone, shredded
40 g (about 1 ½ ounces) mozzarella, pulled into 5 clumps
2 g (¼ tsp) chopped Thai pepper
black olives (optional)
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius (500 Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a simmer. Add the broccoli rabe and blanch for 10 seconds. Drain and set aside.
Shape the pizza dough (see previous post for instructions), spread the béchamel evenly over the surface leaving about an inch of the rim untouched. Sprinkle with the garlic and provolone. Evenly space the clumps of mozzarella on top. Cover with a blanket of broccoli rabe and sprinkle with the Thai pepper and a pinch of salt. Add olives if using.
makes about two cups, enough for about 4 pizzas
250 ml (1 cup) whole milk
55 g (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
a pinch of ground nutmeg
Pour about 1/3 of the milk onto a saucepan, add butter and heat while stirring, until the butter melts.
Meanwhile, put the flour in a medium bowl, add remaining milk and whisk into a slurry. Ladle some of the warm mixture into the cold flour mixture to warm it. Pour the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan and whisk it in. Add salt.
Over medium-low heat, whisk the mixture frequently, as it cooks and thickens. The béchamel is done when it has reached the consistency of a runny sauce or heavy cream.
Grate in the nutmeg and allow to cool to room temperature. It will continue to thicken as it cools. Use the béchamel immediately or cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Bring it back to room temperature before using.