There are two types of people in this world; those who enjoy sweet, mellow and subtly spiced food and those who prefer savory, assertive and intensely flavored dishes. I happen to fall in the later category; give me salty chips, strong coffee and spicy vindaloo and I’m a happy girl.
Whether I’m at Shop Rite or one of the ethnic grocery stores I like to frequent, I’m always on the lookout for interesting foods or ingredients to try. I recently discovered Shim’on Ariche Harissa Forte at Fairway and I’ve become a bit obsessed with this little condiment. Harissa is a spicy paste of chili peppers, garlic and salt that adds a delicious kick to everything and anything. I’ve been putting it on everything from grilled chicken and salads to sunny-side-up eggs and my morning toast. (Sometimes when I need a little pick me up, I actually eat it by the spoonfull right out of the jar.) The other thing I can’t seem to get enough of these days is broccoli rabe— I just love, love, love this bitter green! I usually sauté it with garlic, olive oil and some harissa (of course) and then throw in a few chickpeas or poach an egg for on top. Delicious!
You already know that I make a lot of soup, so it seemed like a natural progression to try to incorporate my harissa/broccoli rabe obsession with my soup infatuation. Happily this proved far easier to do then I expected. The soup turned out to be wonderfully soothing creation; filled with fiber rich beans, super antioxidant broccoli rabe, and some fantastic chicken sausage just to round things out. I added a little harissa for a background kick of metabolism boosting heat and served it with a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. A simple bowl was enough to put a smile on my face!
But my quest to combine my two latest obsessions didn’t stop there, my final creation was a panini of broccoli rabe sautéed with garlic and anchovies, a little fresh mozzarella and a hearty schmear of harissa all sandwiched between some lovely fresh ciabatta bread. Man it was good, just typing these words makes me want to hit save and head into the kitchen for another one.
I realize I have a bit of a bitter/spicy monkey on my back, but I’m okay with it. Thankfully we have a Fairway close by so I’m never without this obsession evoking condiment or my favorite greens for long. However if anyone from Fairway is reading this… I’m begging you, please start selling the harissa in larger jars. I don’t have enough pantry space for all the little jars required to feed my need!
Broccoli Rabe & Fresh Mozzarella Panini
This would no doubt be equally delicious with a couple slices of sharp provolone or perhaps a combination of mozzarella and provolone. But— even if you don’t like anchovies don’t omit them, the flavor is very subtle but it really does make a difference.
1/2 a bunch of fresh broccoli rabe, chopped into thirds
4 flat anchovies packed in oil, finely chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
2 wedges ciabetta bread (or other hearty bread), sliced in half
4 thin slices fresh mozzarella
- Quickly steam (or blanch) the broccoli rabe until it is just crisp tender and set aside.
- Cook the anchovies and garlic in olive oil until the garlic just begins to turn golden and the anchovies begin to dissolve, about 2-3 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe to the pan, sprinkle it with a pinch of salt and cook (stirring frequently) an additional 3-4 minutes.
- Heat a panini or sandwich press according to manufacturer’s instructions until hot. Brush one side of the bread slices with olive oil and place on a work surface. Layer the broccoli rabe mixture and two slices of mozzarella on each bottom slice. Spread the top slice with harissa and place on the sandwich.
- Put sandwiches on the press, pull down the top and cook until the cheese has melted and the ciabatta is browned and crisp, 4 to 7 minutes.
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken sausage, sliced into bite sized pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 cans small white beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped into 1″ pieces
2 quarts chicken stock
4 tsp. harissa
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, garnish
- Heat olive oil in a medium stock pot over high heat. Add the sausage and brown 2-3 minutes, breaking up any large pieces.
- Add the carrots, onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until the vegetable begin to soften. Add the chopped broccoli rabe, stir well to coat with the vegetable mixture and allow to cook 1-2 minutes until the greens begin to wilt.
- Add to the pot the chicken stock, bay leaf, harissa and beans and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- Fish out bay leaf, adjust seasonings and serve with grated cheese and some crusty bread.