After reading "broccoli rabe" on a menu and expecting broccolini a few too many times, I'd decided I'd had it with the bitter, leafy crucifer. I wanted cute baby broccoli, not an aggressive-tasting vegetable I found awkwardly hard to chew.
Well, I take it all back. I've officially acquired a liking for the leafy green, thanks to these garlicky, briny pressed sandwiches from Julia Turshen's new cookbook, Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers. And because the book is all about, well, leftovers, I've eaten broccoli rabe countless ways this week (broccoli rabe pesto! broccoli rabe pasta!) — and I've enjoyed every single version.
Why Pressed Sandwiches Are the Best Kind of Sandwiches
If you've ever made a pan bagna (like a Niçoise salad in sandwich form) or a New Orleans-style muffuletta (you know, the one piled high with cold cuts), you understand the magic that happens when you weigh down a sandwich and let the soft bread soak up all the delicious flavors. Julia's vegetarian version was inspired by both the muffuletta and a Philadelphia-style pork and broccoli rabe sandwich, as well as, she writes, "a passage I once read about how legendary food writer M. F. K. Fisher made a guest sit on a wrapped sandwich while they chatted so it would be perfectly pressed in time for lunch."
Luckily, Julia doesn't ask us to sit on these sandwiches — rather, you'll weigh them down with a heavy skillet for at least an hour, which allows the bitterness of the slightly spicy, garlicky sautéed broccoli rabe to mellow and gives the caper and olive mixture a chance to soak into the rolls. I devoured mine for dinner, but because they get better as they sit, they're also great packed for lunch.
A Few Key Tips for the Best Broccoli Rabe Sandwiches
Although making this sandwich is mostly about assembly, you'll briefly blanch and sauté the broccoli rabe to soften it a bit. I recommend prepping all your ingredients before you start cooking, because as soon as the garlic hits the hot oil, you'll need to move quickly to prevent it from burning. Throw in the broccoli rabe, toss until softened, and then switch off the heat. The whole process takes less than five minutes.
The recipe calls for a full pound of cheese, which would make for one super-tall, super-cheesy sandwich. I used half as much and found it just as delightful.
Lastly, Julia suggests throwing any leftover broccoli rabe into the food processor to make pesto, or tossing it with cooked farro for a flavorful grain salad. I wholeheartedly agree.
Pressed Broccoli Rabe and Mozzarella Sandwiches
broccoli rabe (about 1 1/2 bunches), tough stems discarded, coarsely chopped
olive oil, divided
large garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
green olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons
drained brined capers, finely chopped
red wine vinegar
Individual-size sandwich rolls, split (I like rolls with sesame seeds for this, but you do you)
fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Pour water into a large saucepan to fill about 1-inch and bring to a boil over high heat. Add a large pinch of salt and then the broccoli rabe and cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and slightly wilted, about 30 seconds.
Drain the broccoli rabe in a colander, wipe the pot dry, and return it to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil, the garlic, and the red pepper flakes and stir until the garlic is fragrant, about 15 seconds. Immediately add the drained broccoli rabe and a large pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the broccoli rabe is coated with the garlicky oil and is a bit more softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set the broccoli rabe aside to cool down a bit.
Place the olives, capers, vinegar, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and a small pinch of salt in a small bowl and stir to combine. Place the rolls, cut-side up, on a work surface and evenly distribute the olive mixture among the rolls, putting some on both halves of each roll. Divide the mozzarella and broccoli rabe evenly among the rolls, close the rolls, and then tightly wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap.
Place something flat and heavy on top of the sandwiches, such as a large cast-iron skillet. Let the sandwiches sit under this weight for at least an hour before eating or putting them in your backpack.
Ingredient Variation: If you can’t find or don’t like broccoli rabe, substitute regular broccoli or any dark, leafy green such as kale.
Reprinted with permission from Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers by Julia Turshen, copyright (c) 2018, Chronicle Books.