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Rice Pilaf and Broccoli Rabe

While I grew up on this version of rice pilaf, I only had broccoli rabe for the first time several weeks ago, when a friend suggested we make some to go with a vodka cream sauce we were making. I was completely surprised that broccoli had evolved to the point of incorporating spinach like leaves to please all of us who just can’t decide which vegetable we want for dinner. Sautéed up with some garlic, olive oil and salt, broccoli rabe makes an elegant, but simple dish that works well with nearly any starch.

The rice pilaf gets a flavor boost from the sautéed onions and the browning of the rice. If you enjoy the browned rice flavor, you can also try browning the rice before you add it to the onions. Heat the rice, stirring constantly, in a heavy non-stick frying pan over medium high heat until the rice turns golden brown. Set aside and continue with the recipe below.

The use of parmesan cheese in this recipe adds a sharpness to the dish that is also well complimented by white wine. If you want to add a few tablespoons of dry white wine to the vegetable stock, the flavors of your meal will mix perfectly with a chilled wine served with the dinner.

About the Ingredients:

Either extra virgin olive oil or regular olive oil will work fine for both the rice pilaf and the broccoli rabe, but extra virgin olive oil will give the broccoli rabe a subtle fruitiness that works well.

Any type of long grain white rice works for this recipe, but make sure you don’t use minute rice or any other type of pre-cooked rice. Basmati rice can be used if you want a fragrant dish that is more out of the ordinary.

As I’ve mentioned several times, Knorr vegetable bouillon is my favorite, but any kind of vegetable stock works fine. If you don’t want to use vegetable stock, you can cook the rice in salted water, but the vegetable stock makes the flavors much more complex and satisfying. Grana Padano and Reggiano are the best kinds of parmesan cheese available. The Reggiano is somewhat grainy and has the flavor of wine, sharp but smooth. The Grana Padano is somewhat milder and cheaper, but still a very good parmesan cheese.

Broccoli rabe is available at most large supermarkets in the Boston area. It has numerous green leaves and small broccoli florets. To prepare the broccoli rabe for cooking, simply chop off the very bottoms of the green stalks and discard them. The rest of the stalks, leaves and flowers should be left whole.

Rice Pilaf

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil1 Medium Onion, chopped1 Cup Long Grain White Rice2 Cups Vegetable Stock1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the onions, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the rice and sauté, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, or until the rice begins to brown. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and add the grated parmesan cheese. Mix thoroughly and serve immediately with the broccoli rabe.

Broccoli Rabe

1 Bunch Broccoli Rabe1 Tbsp. Olive Oil2 Cloves Garlic, choppedKosher Salt

In a medium sized pot, bring about an inch of water to a boil. Chop off the bottoms of the broccoli rabe stalks and add to the pot. Simmer, covered, until the stalks are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Drain the broccoli rabe in a colander and heat the olive oil in the pot over medium low heat. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Remove the pot from the heat and add the broccoli rabe and kosher salt to taste. Toss the broccoli rabe and serve immediately with the rice pilaf.