Broccoli Rabe Lasagna: Dish 5 of What to Make Now from the Farmers Market

I promise this delicious dish redeems that hideous plate of mulch I posted last week! Broccoli Rabe (Raab) or Broccolini is everywhere right now. These baby broccoli are flavorful, verdant and, I bet, in copious amounts at your local Farmer’s Market. This recipe is a more of an Italian twist on a recent New York Times Food piece. We lighten up on the pasta and skip the traditional Béchamel Sauce for more cheese and pesto. Making a more vegetable driven dish that tastes just as decadent as regular Lasagna.  Even though not everything is sourced from your Farmers Market, it is too delicious not to share.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 to 3 lbs Broccolini Rabe
  • 1 lemon
  • 16 oz good quality Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 cups Shredded Mozzarella or Italian Cheese Medley
  • 2 balls freshly made mozzarella sliced
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Pine Nuts or Walnuts (Optional)
  • 1/3 cup shaved or shredded Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup Italian Parsley
  • 6-7 garlic cloves
  • 4 or 5 sheets lasagna pasta
  • Kosher salt & Pepper
  • coarse salt (like Jacobsen Salt)
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375’F.

In a large pot, boil water and pre cook lasagna sheets. While this happens (think 4-5 minutes) trim woody ends from Broccolini. Lift lasagna from hot water and drain in colander. Add all Broccolini to hot water and blanch for about 1 minute. Drain immediately in a colander.  Run cool water through all broccoli. Dry on a kitchen towel.

Broccolini waiting to be blanched.

Broccolini waiting to be blanched.

In a separate bowl, mix ricotta cheese with zest from 1/2-1 lemon. Do this to taste. I like a whole lemon worth of zest but Dean prefers less.

Garlic and Parsley waiting to be blended with Pine Nuts (or walnuts), Olive Oil, cheese, and part of the blanched Broccolini.

Garlic and Parsley waiting to be blended with Pine Nuts (or walnuts), Olive Oil, cheese, and part of the blanched Broccolini.

In a small Cuisinart, blend garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, pinch of kosher salt, one or two twists of pepper, and the parsley. Then coarse shop about 1/3 of all broccoli rabe (stems too) and add to garlic mixture in the Cuisinart. Pulse to blend into a fragrant pesto.

Coarse chop remaining Broccoli Rabe into bite size pieces.

Ready for assembly.

Ready for assembly.  Note the cheese grater — this is how I lest lemons.  I loathe the handheld zesters…they bite.

Lightly butter a casserole dish. Spoon and smear bottom of pan with some pesto. Layer 2 lasagna sheets spread equal distance from each other and the edges. Drop dollops and spread ricotta cheese lemon mixture. Spread half of Broccoli Pesto and then chopped broccoli Raab on top of spread ricotta. Layer half of sliced mozzarella and sprinkle a handful of shredded mozzarella on top of the sliced.

The first layer should resemble this...

The first layer should resemble this… Before a quick sprinkle of shredded mozzarella cheese.

Repeat with second layer: remaining Pesto (it’s ok if it’s a lot as it will bake down into the bottom layer), 2 or 3 lasagna sheets, ricotta lemon cheese, chopped Broccolini, sliced mozzarellas, and remaining shredded cheese. Drop pats of butter across the top of cheese mixture (about 6-8 pats) and drizzle coarse salt.

Ready for the pats of butter and salt drizzle.

Ready for the pats of butter and salt drizzle.

Cover dish with tin foil and cook for 20 minutes. Remove foil and cook for 20-35 minutes more. I crank the heat a good 5 minutes to Broil to char the cheese a bit on top.

Adding the butter pats will help keep cheese moist and then brown the tops at the end of baking.

Adding the butter pats will help keep cheese moist and then brown the tops at the end of baking.

Remove from oven and let lasagna stand about 10 minutes. Serve with a broad spoon in shallow wide bowls. Pair with our 2010 Annadel Estate Winery Meritage Blend or with a medium bodies, dry red with earthy notes. This is an elegant dish with notes of Springtime (broccoli greens and bright hints of lemon) so think of a dry rose or medium bodied red wine!

Warning: there will be no leftovers.  Happy Eating!

Dish 4: What NOT to Make from the Farmers Market

Oh dear Christ, this was a hideous experiment. I’ve been spot on and feeling rather proud these past few weeks of relatively impromptu cooking and writing here. But this? Oh God. It was like eating Lawn.  Pretty. But totally wretched.

Pea Shoots

Pea Shoots

To be fair, I added far too many Pea Shoots. But they smelled so delicious! And really, why plane wild Asparagus with a peeler when roasting them intact or halved is more delicious? I’m not sure where I went wrong, and I refuse to give you the botched “recipe” but suffice to say even throwing a bunch of minced green garlic and splashes of our Chardonnay for flavor bumps did nothing to help the situation.  The kids ended up eating Peanut Butter & Jelly and Dean and I split another bottle of wine.

Raw ingredients fresh from the Farmers Market.

Raw ingredients fresh from the Farmers Market.

The original recipe was a quick saute of:

  • trimmed pea shoots — far too many
  • 2 handfuls of sliced Shittake Mushrooms
  • 1 bunch Wild Asparagus planed thinly (about 15 stalks)
  • 2 Spring Garlics quartered long way and then sliced thinly
Original Mulch. Pretty but awful.

Original Mulch. Pretty but awful.

The saving grace was that this left over mulch was a divine last minute Brunch Fritatta for Easter. I reheated these limpy little greens in fresh olive oil and coarse salt. Threw it into a pie pan (remember cuteness is important!) and covered it in a quick “egg custard” consisting of:

  • 4 whisked eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 Tspn stoneground mustard
  • salt & pepper
  • a few grates of freshly shaved nutmeg

Dusted some left over parmesan cheese over the top and threw it in the Oven at 400’F for 30-ish minutes.  The verdict? PERFECTION.  I mean, as some gussied-up leftovers turned French-inspired Brunch Tart.

Silver Lining: this mulch of a dish made a gorgeous base for an Easter Frittata

Silver Lining: this mulch of a dish made a gorgeous base for an Easter Frittata

Happy Eating!

 

When great Food, Wine, and Service matter most…

Lights are dimming on the life of my Grandmother. My exquisitely vibrant, warm, nipped waist, full bosom, big lipstick, bigger smile grandmother. Mom and I sat with her a good nine hours today. All of my Palmer family has been flying in and visiting her. The end is near.

Early scenes for my Grandmother and Grandfather's life.

Early scenes for my Grandmother and Grandfather’s life.

Mom and I slipped out for lunch (and fresh air). She remembered a small bistro my Uncle Jeff discovered and we beelined to Celestino’s on Lake here in Pasadena.  We walked in — late for lunch service, mind you — at 2:45 PM with the look of “Please Hug Us.”  They could have closed the doors. Anyone is hospitality knows lunch ends between 3-5 PM to prepare for Dinner Service. Especially in a place where the Chef and Sous Chef make every bit of fresh pasta by hand each morning… But here’s the thing. And I watched their faces watch ours. Instead of rightly closing, they opened their arms.  WIDE.

Every slice of Pasta is made fresh each morning at Celestino's.

Every slice of Pasta is made fresh each morning at Celestino’s.

We split everything. Mom and I. Starting with a beautifully bright and sunny Gavi I Gavi Italian white wine suggested by the epically perfect server Carlos. Then marinated shrimp over sliced cucumber and capers. Followed by a planed asparagus salad with radicchio. And a fresh fettuccine alle Vongole that still held the sweet salty brine of the ocean. This dish took my breath away.

Italian Perfection in a bottle.

Italian Perfection in a bottle.

Marinated Shrimp with Capers on Sliced Zucchini.

Marinated Shrimp with Capers on Sliced Zucchini.

Planed Asparagus with Radicchio and shaved Parmesan.

Planed Asparagus with Radicchio and shaved Parmesan.

At this point the servers, hostess and cooks were eating their Staff Meal at the bar. Chatting away in Italian. The restaurant had long emptied but they insisted we stay. Dessert arrived and more wine. Two perfectly served espressos and ricotta orange cheesecake.  Heaven. Each and every bite.

Perfect Fettucini alle Vongole.

Perfect Fettucini alle Vongole.

I like to think Carlos and Celestino’s somehow knew they were healing part of the fractured pain my Mom and I are experiencing. That great food and fine wine infuses hurting souls with sunshine and fresh ocean flavors. Fortifying us to return back to that hospital room where our one and only Mima is wasting away. Unable to eat or drink. I brought with me these food pictures and smile temporarily renewed back to show Mima. Because there’s one thing she always loved. And that was laugh over a bottle of white wine with me and Mom.  A kaleidoscope of lunches past washed over me.  I was grateful for simple lunch of perfect food. And friendly Servers who hugged us with their kindness. And still am.

Back to Mima.

Three generations: me, Mima, and my Mom.

Three generations: me, Mima, and my Mom.