What you’re looking at is one of my favorite vegetables – broccoli raab — topped with lots of toasted garlic cloves. It’s also got anchovies in the recipe, but honestly if you’re squeamish about them, you’d never know they’re in there. They kind of dissolve into the oil when you’re smashing them with a wooden spoon. But they do add a certain “umami” flavor that kicks up the taste a lot, and leaves you wondering “mmm” what’s that taste in there?
This recipe is similar to the way I’ve been making broccoli raab for decades, and it’s found in a book called “Garlic” by Robin Cherry. It’s an edible biography of the history, politics and mythology behind the world’s most pungent food.
My book group read it recently and gathered to talk about it, as well as prepare food from the 100 recipes included in the book.
Each of us brought a recipe from the book that featured garlic. One of the appetizers couldn’t be more garlic themed if you tried – roasted garlic. After the heads of garlic, drizzled with olive oil, roasted in the oven for 45 minutes, we smeared it on crackers and gobbled it down.
Next we feasted on gambas al ajillo – the classic Spanish tapas dish featuring shrimp, lots of garlic and a generous splash of brandy.
We had a garlic soup course too, a remarkably mild and sweet soup served with strands of vermicelli.
The main course was a perfectly cooked beef tenderloin, slathered with a mustard-garlic-herb crust before roasting, and served with a garlic horseradish sauce (not pictured here).
We couldn’t forget vegetables, and a few people brought those, including this roasted garlic and quinoa salad that included arugula, olives, cherry tomatoes and feta cheese.
The roasted eggplant with garlic and LOTS of olive oil was so delectable, I had to refrain from eating the whole plate.
The broccoli raab with toasted garlic and anchovies rounded out the vegetables and you can find the recipe below.
If you are a garlic lover, you will love this book, not only for the recipes, which are terrific, but for all the garlic legends and lore you’ll learn about, and how it’s viewed by different cultures around the world.
The book even includes a few dessert recipes featuring garlic, but we decided we’d prefer a little sorbet to cleanse the palate after a night of eating garlic in each course. It didn’t stanch my love of garlic in any way, in fact, eating all that garlic in different courses gave me appreciation of the different flavors garlic can have, from very mild to very pungent, depending on how long you cook it and how much you use.
The book also gives instructions on how to plant garlic, something I did last fall, after a friend of my son’s, who owns McCollum Orchards in upstate New York, gave me some produce from his farm, including several beautiful, big heads of garlic. Most of them we cooked in various recipes, but I saved a couple of bulbs to plant, separating the cloves and putting them in the ground last fall.
They’re coming up beautifully and should be ready to harvest in late June or early July. You can plant them now too, but the bulbs will undoubtedly be smaller than if you had planted them in the fall.
Even if you can’t grow your own garlic, try to find garlic grown locally for the freshest taste and highest quality.
I’m including the recipe for the broccoli raab, but you’ll have to buy the book for the other recipes pictured above. It’s well worth the read.
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kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the broccoli raab and cook it until it is bright green and barely tender, about 3 minutes. Immediately transfer it to a colander and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking. Let the broccoli raab drain well.
Combine the oil and garlic in a sauté pan and heat it gently over medium heat until the garlic is golden brown and crisp. Lift the toasted garlic from the oil and set aside.
Add the anchovy fillets and red pepper flakes and sauté, smashing the anchovy with the back of a spoon until it dissolves. Add the drained broccoli raab and continue to sauté, tossing or stirring until it is evenly coated and very hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Season the dish with salt and pepper.
Serve the broccoli raab at once, topped with the toasted garlic.