Thursday, June 10, 2010

What do Hello Kitty, Plasma TVs, and Broccolini Have in Common?

light and creamy parpadelle with broccolini

When you hear the word "Japanese," what comes to mind? Sushi? Honda? Anime? Karate? Hello Kitty? The Japanese invented of all them.

They also brought us karaoke, the CD player, and the plasma t.v., all of which pale in comparison to their greatest achievement, the invention of broccolini. Broccolini, a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale, was invented by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohana, Japan.

broccolini (also called baby broccoli) from Hillcrest Farmers' Market in San Diego
(Broccolini at the Hillcrest Farmers' Market in San Diego.)

What's so special about broccolini? Everything. Unlike bulky regular broccoli, broccolini has long, slender stems that are graced with delicate bunches of buds. Broccolini's flavor is sweeter than broccoli and has hints of earthy asparagus. When cooked, it's much more tender than broccoli yet has a satisfying crisp texture when eaten raw.

Like broccoli, broccolini can be boiled, steamed, sauteed, roasted, and even grilled. Avoid overcooking it; broccolini prefers a light hand. Since it's so tender, it can be sauteed raw. If, however, you prefer to boil it first, then consider a par-boil. Par-boil broccolini for 1 minute, then plunge it into a bowl of ice water to "shock" it. This will stop the cooking process, maintain its vivid green color, and ensure tenderness. Just drain and pat dry before sauteeing.

fresh broccoli rabe or rapini
Broccoli Rabe (rapini).

If you're wondering whether or not broccolini is the same as broccoli rabe (rapini), it isn't. Broccoli rabe is a robust Italian vegetable known for its distinctive bitterness. In fact, if you'd like to learn more about broccoli rabe, then check out my latest piece on NPR's Kitchen Window: "You Don't Have To Be Italian To Eat Broccoli Rabe."

The piece contains four recipes featuring broccoli rabe:
Broccoli Rabe and Mushroom Frittata with Grape Tomato Salsa
Lemony Broccoli Rabe and Cannelini Bean Crostini
Broccoli Rabe, Fennel, and Hot Sausage Pizza (pictured below)
Sicilian Anchovy and Broccoli Rabe Pasta

broccoli rabe, fennel, and hot sausage pizza DSC_0005

Now, if the Japanese had invented the iPhone 4, maybe that would be their greatest accomplishment.

Light and Creamy Parpadelle with Mascarpone Cheese and Broccolini
Makes 2 large or 4 small servings
Print recipe only here.

1/2 pound parpadelle (I used fresh pasta)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
3-3 1/2 cups broccolini, thicker stems trimmed and sliced
3 tablespoons dry white wine
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
Zest of 1/2 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons hot pasta water
3-4 tablespoons grated Reggiano-Parmigiano or Grana Padano cheese
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling, optional

1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Note: Fresh pasta cooks very quickly (3-5 minutes), so cook it once the sauce is nearly finished.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add shallots and saute 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add broccolini and saute 2-3 minutes, until just softened and lightly browned. Add white wine and leave alone for 2 minutes, letting the alcohol evaporate.

3. In a small bowl, whisk mascarpone cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and hot pasta water until smooth and creamy.

4. Drain pasta and add to the skillet with the broccolini. Add the cheese sauce, lightly tossing until well coated, about 1 minute. Serve immediately. Top with grated cheese, and, if desired, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

You might also like these recipes from Food Blogga:
Broccolini and Sun-Dried Tomato Calzone
Easy Chicken Saute with Broccoflower, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Olives
Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) on Crispy Polenta with a Creamy Goat Cheese Sauce

Here are more broccolini recipes you might enjoy:
Lemon and Broccolini Soup recipe from Technicolor Kitchen
Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini, and Basil recipe from TasteFood
Thai Pork Belly with Garlic and Broccolini recipe from Viet World Kitchen