by guest blogger Suzanne Lenzer, food stylist and author of Truly Madly Pizza
When it comes to my vegetable garden, I am an unrequited lover. Each year I give all I have, and yet, for every small reward (the asparagus bed that finally bore spears, the single peach I salvaged from the squirrels), I know a rebuff is inevitable. This year I fear it's the broccoli rabe that will break my heart. I've planted the seeds, and they are flirting back nicely, but I remain cautious. I love broccoli rabe (also know as rapini or broccoli raab), and though I've never had the confidence to grow my own, I found some Italian seeds at a garden shop and thought, If not now, when?
We seem off to a good start so far--fledgling shoots stand in neat rows in the bed--but I find myself holding my breath as I water them. Are they just toying with my affection? I really hope not because I have a plan to make a pizza. Not just any pizza, but a pizza draped with barely bitter broccoli rabe, dotted with bits of sweet soppressata, and all graced with a perfectly fried egg. Sure, I could go with arugula, but I'm fixated on the rabe. Like a crush I can't shake, I'll keep waiting and hoping.
This crush started many years ago at a place on the corner of Jane Street and 8th Avenue, just a block from our apartment. It was called Freddy's, and was that rare thing you don't find very often in New York these days: a small, family-run Italian restaurant that served really delicious food. Freddy was there every night, either taking orders or checking to make sure everyone was having a good time.
One night we called and asked if they'd deliver; we were only slightly surprised to find Freddy himself standing with steaming containers at our door within the hour. I could be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure Freddy's was the first place I ever had broccoli rabe. I don't know if it wasn't fashionable yet or if I'd just missed the boat, but one night, probably our first or second visit, Freddy suggested we try the special appetizer. We gamely agreed. What he set before us was a twisted tumble of inky-green leaves, stalks, and florets dotted with cubes of homemade soppressata. It was beautiful in its austerity, yet the flavors were far from simple. I was besotted.
Since that night, broccoli rabe has gone from an exotic discovery to an everyday staple in our house. We we'll never know why Freddy's closed (restaurants can be so good and yet so fleeting in the city), but we miss it. I suppose this pizza is a kind of thank-you card to Freddy--and a love letter to one of my favorite vegetables.
Broccoli Rabe Pizza with Soppressata and an Egg
- Sea salt
- ½ bunch broccoli rabe
- 1 ball pizza dough, thawed if frozen
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- About 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into bite-size pieces
- ¼ pound soppressata, diced (about ½ cup)
- 1 large egg
- Freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 550°F.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe, stir, and cook until the water returns to a boil, the rabe is bright green, and the stems are barely tender. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Let cool and then squeeze to remove any excess liquid.
3. Shape the pizza crust as directed in the master recipe. Brush 1 tablespoon of the oil over the crust and scatter the mozzarella over the top. Drape the broccoli rabe randomly over the pie and add the soppressata.
4. Transfer the pizza to the oven and bake until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese has melted, 6 to 10 minutes.
5. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry the egg until the white is just set but the yolk is still loose, 3 to 4 minutes. To serve, top the pizza with the egg and a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper.
A successful food stylist, Suzanne Lenzer has worked for many years with New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, and her work has appeared in New York Times Magazine, Food Network magazine, O The Oprah magazine, among others. She collaborated with Food Network star Anne Burrell on her best-selling Cook Like a Rock Star, as well as on Own Your Kitchen. Lenzer is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, and she's the author of Truly Madly Pizza: One Incredibly Easy Crust, Countless Inspired Combinations & Other Tidbits to Make Pizza a Nightly Affair (Rodale Books, 2014).
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com