Monday, March 19, 2007

Filling up with a Hearty Peasant Soup

The first (and last) time we tried broccoli rabe, we found it a bit flavorless and too bitter for our tastes - however, we decided to give it another go after learning that blanching it before you use it in a recipe helps to mellow the bitterness and pull out its earthy flavor. So in an effort to give broccoli rabe another chance, we decided to give this recipe, Hearty Peasant Soup, a go for dinner tonight!

When you go to prepare the broccoli rabe, cut about 1/4" off the bottom thick stems as they can be pretty tough. Once chopped and well washed, dunk the vegetable in boiling salted water for just a minute or two - quickly drain them in a colander and then plunk them in ice cold water to finish the blanching process. The base for the soup begins by sautéing onions and garlic until they become tender; then thick tomato paste with a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar is added and allowed to cook down for a couple minutes. Vegetable broth, water, chunky fire-roasted tomatoes, chickpeas and the blanched broccoli rabe are stirred in and this mixture simmers until the the greens are tender. Be sure to check for seasonings before you serve it - stir in salt and fresh ground pepper if needed and you could even add a dash or two more of balsamic to give it more bite if you like.

The tomato paste gives this soup gusto with a good mouth feel - the paste freezes well, so I throw blobs (about 1 tablespoons worth) on a baking sheet and freeze them. When firm, I pluck them off and store them in a zip-loc bag until needed - this way you don't have to worry about the opened can in the refrigerator going moldy. You could also splurge and buy the paste in a tube for easy storage! If you don't care for garbanzo beans, you could use the same amount of cannellini beans instead. For a hearty finish, we served thick toasted slices of a rustic bread inside the bowl to truly make this an extremely filling and delicious meal.


  1. Dude, broccoli rabe is supposed to be bitter. Admittedly, Americans don't really have a developed taste for bitter. But try broccoli rabe more often. It's one of the classiest brassicas around. Blanche in salted, boiling water until just barely done, then toss in olive oil infused with garlic. Dress with salt, pepper and lemon. Nothing better next to a grilled swordfish or roasted chicken...

  2. Ed - It was just too bitter for us, without blanching first, to be enjoyable. But we are trying to like it!

  3. Laurie Colwin, the author and food essayist, wrote in high praise of broccoli rabe. The American palate is not fully appreciative of bitter greens, as most of us have not been raised on them. They are an acquired taste, but worthy of pursuit.

  4. I love broccoli raab, and am glad you gave it another shot. It is really the perfect addition to a plethora of soups,not to mention pasta dishes!

    This soup looks awesome, just my taste!