The Brooklyn Italian Grandmother Is Back And Cooking

This is our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother back in the kitchen and digging into a pile of broccoli rabe.  Otherwise known as cooking with your fingers only up to the base of your rings.  We can dig that, can you?  What has happened to the world of broccoli rabe these days?  They steam it….good for you.  Yuch, it is tasteless!  They stir fry it.  O.K., but limp and mushy.  They saute it in water.  That’s called boiling it where we come from.  We asked our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother to come back into the kitchen and make it the good old-fashioned way so that we could share it with everyone.  This is a great side dish and is quick and easy.  When you are making an Italian dish, cook up some broccoli rabe and see what the family says.  While many people say it has a bitter taste, we have found that if you cook it up the Brooklyn way, the rabe is soft and delicious.  I’ve held the Brooklyn Italian Grandmother down and measured and forced her to tell me her recipe.   So let’s take what I’ve forced out of her and cook up some broccoli rabe and go jewelry shopping all in one post.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large heads of broccoli rabe.  I found organic and super fresh.  We beg you to do the same.  Your body doesn’t need the chemicals. 
  • 3 tablespoons great olive oil
  • 7 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.  More or less depending on how much you love garlic.  We adore it so use 7 cloves if you are truly a garlic lover.
  • 1 cup chicken stock, again go organic if you can
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, or more to flavor to your liking
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper or more to your liking
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more/less to taste.  We like it spicy.

Directions:

Trim the stalks of the brocolli rabe and rinse under cool water.  Roughly chop garlic cloves.

  Rings always look better with a garlic scent to them.  Multiple bracelets support the wrist during the chopping process.

Over medium heat, heat the olive oil and then add the chopped garlic and sautee until garlic is lightly golden in color.

Add the chicken broth and the chicken bouillon cube until they are lightly heated.  Then add the cleaned and rinsed broccoli rabe.  Don’t be nervous if the rabe is stacked high in the skillet.  It will quickly wilt down to a reasonable amount.

  What takes away from beautiful green, organic and fresh rabes more than diamonds and solid gold?

Lightly place a skillet lid on top of the broccoli rabe and continue to adjust it while the rabe wilts down.

  Lid protects jewels from damage but also allows steam to lightly clean the gems.  We call this multi-tasking.

As the broccoli rabe wilts down during the cooking process, raise the lid and add a teaspoon of salt to flavor during cooking.  Place the lid back on the rabes and saute for about 10 minutes.  Lift lid and turn over the broccoli rabe so the bottom is now on the top and place the lid back on for another 10 minutes.  Continue cooking until rabes are al dente, meaning tender but they still possess a little chewiness to them.

   Diamonds are forever….sing it.

When tender, add another half a teaspoon of salt and the pepper or more to flavor the broccoli rabe to your liking.  Add the red pepper flakes to add a little heat.  If you like it hot, add more.  If you can’t take the heat, don’t add any red pepper flakes.  Use your own judgement. 

Come on…have you ever seen such a beautiful and exotic side dish to complement your favorite Italian dish?  Broccoli rabe is not for everyone, but it is for most people that we have served it to in the traditional Brooklyn Italian Grandmother way.  Who needs to light up their life when you can rabe up your life?  Just a little hint–some great bread is delicious when you use it to dip in and soak up the broth from the rabes.  And remember, it also is a great way to clean your jewelry in an organic sort of way.  Give it a try….you won’t be sorry.  What side dishes can you share on Acorns On Glen that would be great with Italian food? 

Friday Dance Party-Mariah’s In The House

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for living another week. We give thanks for making it through the journey and for being able to celebrate this fact.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  Are you alive this Friday?  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

Super divas make for super dancing.  We’re full of emotion this week as we travel to Chicago to meet my brother, my sister-in-law and the kids this weekend.  We haven’t seen them for a while, so we are filled with excitement and anticipation for the days to finally get here.  So it is finally Friday and today is the big first day!  We have lots planned…a nice hotel to stay at, lots of new restaurants to eat at, lots of shopping to do and yes, we are even going to a museum for a little culture.  So this weekend promises to be GREAT.  So who better to sing a song that embraces all the emotions we are feeling?  Ms. Carey, Mariah Carey herself.  The girl can blow and this is one of our favorite Mariah songs.  It makes me feel so young again when I listen to it.  So here’s to a great weekend to us here in Chicago and to you and your loved ones wherever you may be.  Shake it to Mariah.  Dance hard (finally, a fast one!) and celebrate family and YOU.  You deserve it and you got me feeling higher.  How old were you when Mariah busted this wild groove?

Meet The Mantis

This is my new toy.  It is a Mantis 4-cycle rototiller.  I am going to use it in the raised bed garden to ready the rest of my soil for planting.  It will be great to turn my winter rye grass cover crop into the soil so that it can break down and release needed nutrients into the garden soil.  It will also cut down on my sore back and knees due to the fact that I won’t need to do these chores by hand anymore.  It will up to the Mantis (with a little help from me).

My Mantis weighs only 24 pounds and, given that it only have two tines attached, it is perfect for my small raised bed garden.  The tines can quickly cut through sod, clay, compacted soil or weeds.  It can also dig down 10 inches so my plants can establish themselves in soil that’s cool, deep and water retentive.  I’m hoping to use it all season–to dig my beds and plant my garden and then all the way to the end of the season when I will turn it all under and re-establish a new cover crop.

My Mantis is easy to start and there is no fuel mixing required.  It is 9 inches wide and has fold down handles.  It can run most of the day on one gallon of gas due to its powerful, Honda 4-cycle engine.  It even has a kickstand so I can “park” my rototiller anywhere and the kickstand flips up when I am tilling the soil.

The easy-grip handles include an on/off switch, a lock key that must be released before the rototiller can operate and an accelerator handle to start the tines working.  The tines are guaranteed for life, so I can only imagine how strong they work.  The tines can spin up to 240 rotations per minute, so that is plenty for the garden that I have here in Connecticut.

I can’t wait to get into the garden with my new toy and do some tilling.  I was so happy when I received the box containing my Mantis.  It reminded me of a little kid getting a bright, red wagon.  So watch out cover crop, your days are numbered.  My Mantis and I are coming to till until we drop…or run out of gas, whichever comes first.  What cool gardening tools are you using in your garden?

Raising Rhubarb

This is what I received this week…some rhubarb crowns ready for planting.  I have been obsessing about planting rhubarb, also know as rheum rhabarbarum, here on Glen Road for quite some time.  I’m sure it has to do with wanting to grow something that reminds me of my youth.  You must all know at this point that my Grandma was a great gardening inspiration in my life.  My Father was also inspirational, but due to my close relationship with Grandma, she brought me slowly into the process and let me get into the garden when I wanted to do it.  She slowly made me value it.  You know how it goes with parents…they want to bring you into it, but many times you feel forced and then you end up crying and rebelling and not wanting to do it.  I guess that is the sad story of all teenage angst…sorry Dad and Mom.  I’ve talked about her horseradish a few times, but my Grandma also had a killer rhubarb patch.  We ate a lot of rhubarb in Spring…rhubarb sauce, rhubarb pie….all of it so fresh and so tasty.  There were times my brother and I would snap off a stalk and chew on the tangy sweet and sour fruit in her backyard.  Do any of you remember the Schwann’s man?  In our town in Iowa, the Schwann’s man drove a pinkish peach truck up the road and you could stop him and buy frozen items.  Grandma bought pizza dough and ice cream.  In the Spring, she scooped this ice cream into whatever rhubarb creation she had made for the night.  How great was that? 

So I wanted to plant a rhubarb patch for a long time and this year, I got my wish.  I planted six crowns this weekend in some well-drained soil.  The patch was in a location that received full sun, just behind the two espalier apple trees.  I set the crowns about a foot apart, which is a little tight, but I’m sure they will be fine.  I watered the crowns very well and then placed a little over one inch of soil on top of them.  Then I firmly tamped down the soil to prevent any dry pockets from forming around the tender crowns.

There will be no harvest this first year.  During the second year, there may be a light harvest, actually a few stalks (botanically, actually petioles) per plant.  In subsequent years, all stalks one inch or more in diameter may be harvested for six to eight weeks.  The harvest period is from May to June.  Some harvesting in Fall is acceptable if we feel the urge.  However, smaller stalks should be left to make food for the crowns and next year’s production.  We will harvest by snapping or cutting the stalks at the base.  We need to remember to remove seed stalks to encourage additional stalks in the next year.  What I also know is that rhubarb leaves from un-harvested stalks are quite beautiful.  Don’t be afraid to plant them in a prominent spot in your garden given their beauty.

After three to five years, we will need to divide the crowns to maintain stalk size and production.  A well-maintained patch will last 10-15 years or longer.  That sounds like such a long time, but as my Grandma used to say, time goes by much quicker the older you get.  Here’s to a few stalks next year.  Do you grow rhubarb in your garden?

Strawberries and Bread

This is a pint of organic strawberries.  I got them at the organic market this week and needed to use them or they were going to go bad.  That’s the problem with strawberries for me.  You quickly need to use them or they need to be thrown out.  I know, you’re saying to me “that’s why them call them fresh”, but I wish they could last a little longer.  You know, like an apple or a pear.  Even given this one downside, the taste of a strawberry is one of my favorite fruit flavors.  So what should I make with them?  Shortcake seemed a little too summer like.  Strawberry ice cream was out given that it is still a little cold outside.  So I decided on making strawberry bread.  This recipe makes a very moist bread marbled with crushed strawberries.  It is a real change of pace and a great way to use those pesky strawberries that seem to lose their freshness way too fast.

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter softened, plus more for pan
  • 1 pint strawberries rinsed, hulled, quartered, and mashed with a fork
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. In a small saucepan, bring strawberries to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, and eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

Add flour mixture alternately with 1/3 cup water, beginning and ending with flour.

Fold in reserved strawberries.  Scrape batter into prepared pan, smoothing top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour (tent with foil after 45 minutes if top is getting too dark). Cool in pan 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges; invert onto a rack. Reinvert; cool completely.

I love that the loaf is so golden brown in color and I wish you could have smelled my kitchen.  The smell of baking bread and strawberries filled the air.  Add a little butter or cream cheese to a slice for an added taste bonus.  This bread is great for breakfast, a snack or any time you need something a little sweet.  Try strawberry bread for a real change of pace.  Your bananas will be jealous.  What have you been baking this weekend?

Friday Dance Party-Vintage Whitney

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party here on Acorns On Glen.  I want you first to give thanks for living and thriving through another week.  No matter how hard or how easy your week was, the important thing is that you made it through and you are still here.  You are alive!!  Did you give thanks?

Good, now let’s dance.

I love to watch videos of when a major star first shows their stuff to the world.  The first time we see their talent and understand that talent really is a major gift from God.  There are certain stars where you remember everything about the first time you saw them in a movie or heard them sing.  The first time they took your breath away.  Think Crosby, Sinatra, Streisand.  Then there was Whitney.  Before all the stuff.  When she was just this unbelievable voice.  This video was one of her first major appearances on television on her way to becoming a star.  It was 1985.  She was there to belt out her first hit.  Before ‘The Greatest Love of All’ and ‘How Will I Know’.  Did you know she had a hit before these?  That someone can sing this well live and without lip synching is incredible.  Who really can do this in today’s music world?  Britney, Madonna, please!  Give me a break.  Whitney has pipes….or had them….I want her to get them back.  So sit back and give thanks that you made it through another week and then start slow grooving to some vintage Whitney.  You deserve it.  What stars took your breath away the first time you saw them perform?