Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentines Day Dinner Part I: Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Aioli (Healthy!)

This dish is one of my Grandma Leonard's favorites. She gets it from an Italian restaurant in Huntington, Long Island, called Sal D's. They know my Grandma well there, she and my Pop-pop have been patrons for years.

After Pop passed (2005), we were out visiting Grandma. Trying to decide what we wanted for lunch, Grandma said that she wanted Broccoli Rabe Aioli from Sal's. It was the first time I had ever tried it, and it immediately became one of my favorites.

With tons of garlic, caramelized nice and slowly in olive oil, sweet fennel sausage, and leafy broccoli rabe, this dish is hearty but not heavy. Add roasted garlic bruschetta, a good glass of white wine, and a few candles, and you might as well be sitting in a Sicilian bistro.

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Aioli
1 pack Sweet Italian Sausage
1 bunch Broccoli Rabe
5 cloves Garlic, smashed
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tblsp Red Pepper Flakes

1) In an 8x8 baking pan, cook the whole sausage in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

This first step is important. If you don't cook the whole sausages before you go to cut them for the dish, they won't hold their form and you won't be able to slice them as thinly.

2) Slice your sausages into 1/4 inch pieces.

3) In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.

4) Saute garlic and sausage until the sausage is brown and starts to crisp.

*It is also important to keep the stove on a medium to low heat. Cooking the garlic slowly will ensure that your garlic tastes sweet, and not sharp or burnt. It also helps to caramelize the garlic, and sausage.

5) Remove the sausage from the pan.

6) Add broccoli rabe. Continuously toss with tongs in the oil until the leaves wilt, the stems are al dente, and the heads soften.

Some people cut half the stems off. The stem probably holds the most bitterness in this vegetable, but it's up to your personal preference. These flavors all compliment each other very nicely, so I tend to keep the stems on.

7) After the broccoli rabe is cooked, add the sausages and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Saute until incorporated.

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