Broccoli Rabe with Anchovies, Lemon, and Garlic


Broccoli rabe is a green leafy vegetable full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Because it has a bitter flavor, it acts like a digestive tonic, stimulating the production of the body's own digestive enzymes.

The bitter flavor of broccoli rabe can be an acquired taste, but this recipe is sure to win over any skeptics. It's savory because of the anchovies, bright because of the lemon, and well-balanced because of the garlic.

Broccoli rabe's sharp flavor goes well with mild foods like chicken or fish, and it helps to balance heavier ones like duck and roasted meats. I like to serve it with slow-roasted chicken.

If you think that you don't like anchovies, add them anyway. They're full of healthy omega-3 fats and give this dish a salty, savory flavor, not a fishy one.

This recipe calls for one bunch of broccoli rabe and yields about 4 cups of cooked greens. To even out the cooking time, I cut the thick stalks in half lengthwise before I chop them.

I used ghee as a cooking fat because medium to medium-high heat is needed to caramelize the greens a bit without overcooking them. Olive oil isn't a good choice because its fragile fatty acids are easily damaged by higher cooking temperatures. If you don't have ghee, you can substitute butter (take care not to burn it) or coconut oil.

When it comes to garlic, one of the main medicinal compounds is allicin and it’s formed from an inactive precursor only upon exposure to air. To maximize the benefits of garlic, maximize the surface area exposed to air by grating it with a microplane, then setting it aside for a few minutes to allow those reactions to happen to their fullest extent.

Allicin is destroyed by heat, so the less you cook garlic, the better. I grate it into the serving bowl while the broccoli rabe cooks, then toss them together at the end. The heat from the broccoli rabe softens the raw garlic flavor without rendering the allicin inactive.

1 tbsp ghee 
5 anchovies
1 bunch broccoli rabe, cut into 1-centimeter pieces
3 cloves garlic
1 lemon
Pinch red pepper flakes

Warm the ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovies and cook them until they melt.

Add the broccoli rabe and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, tossing occasionally, until the broccoli rabe is tender and starting to brown, about 7 minutes. (Don't toss it too much or it won't brown.)

While the broccoli rabe cooks, grate the garlic and zest the lemon into a serving bowl. (If your lemon isn't organic, omit the zest.)

Once the broccoli rabe is fully cooked, add it to the serving bowl and mix it with the zest and garlic. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice from one half over the broccoli rabe. Toss it well, taste it, and add more lemon juice if you like.

It should be salty enough from the anchovies, but if it isn't, add a bit of sea salt.

Serve immediately.