Bitter & Sweet with Rabe and Raisins

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In the kitchen as with elsewhere in life, you live and learn.  Very quickly, in fact, if you’re trying to toast pine nuts in a pan instead of in the oven like you’re supposed to.

Thanks to the Penne with Broccoli Rabe recipe from the Forks Over Knives cookbook, I now know what completely charcoaled pine nuts look like.  And smell like.  The really sad thing about this is that there’s a section in the book on toasting nuts that specifically warns against letting your attention wander during the process.  Fortunately this rather expensive mistake did not turn out to be a harbinger of things to come.

I’ve probably mentioned that I have this thing for broccoli rabe.  I don’t know what it is about the flavor, but it gets me every time.  Maybe it’s the fact that it doesn’t taste quite like anything else; there’s that bite to it that some people describe as bitter, but that I find highly enjoyable.  So whenever I have a chance to try it out in a new dish, I go for it!

broccoli rabe penne

Like a lot of the recipes in the Forks Over Knives book, this one focuses on the use of simple, whole ingredients.  Onions and garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon juice…even nutritional yeast makes an appearance.  Together it all creates a nice light coating for the broccoli rabe and pasta.  The lemon juice and zest added a bright note to the flavor.  Using brown rice penne kept the whole dish light.  I love how gluten-free pastas never seem to sit heavy even if you eat a large portion which, with this dish, is exactly what you get.  In fact, the pasta overwhelmed the broccoli rabe a bit.  When I make something with green leafy veggies, the more green, the better.

For some strange reason, I had a ridiculously hard time finding fresh basil to go along with the pine nuts as garnish.  Normally I’m okay with using dried spices in place of fresh, but it just didn’t seem right for this dish.  Was it worth the four different stops I had to make to get one little box of basil?  Probably not.  Dried wouldn’t have done the trick, though, so store-hopping it was!

broccoli raab penne meal

The most surprising ingredient in the whole dish, to me, was golden raisins.  Reading through the ingredient list, they just didn’t seem to go with everything else.  In practice, though, it was delicious.  The sweetness balanced the bite of the rabe and the zip of the red pepper flakes, and of course it was fine with the pine nuts.  (Once I toasted a second batch that I didn’t burn, anyway.)  A chopped tomato salad seemed to be the thing to top it all off, so I threw that together with a few carrots, some yellow bell peppers and a bit more of the fresh basil.  It was truly a simple, satisfying Italian feast.

What’s your favorite leafy green and why?


About the Author:

Sam has been eating a plant-based diet since summer of 2009 and has spent the subsequent years experimenting with all manner of plant-based food. She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program. She is a former member of Toastmasters International and was awarded a Competent Communicator designation for public speaking. When she's not blogging or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, play silly card games and knit socks.
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  1. jackie conkling  May 27, 2013

    So now I got to go buy the book:-) Sam, when will you publish your cook book? I want a few copies when you do!!!!


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