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Greens with Garlic and Chili (Verdura Strascinata)

Green leafy vegetables are an integral part of the Italian diet, especially in the winter, when spinach, broccoli rabe and wild greens are at their best. Anything tender enough to be eaten raw can be tossed into a salad, and the rest is customarily boiled and treated in one of two ways: all’agro, dressed at the table with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, or strascinata (literally, “dragged”), also referred to as ripassata in padella, sautéed with garlic and chili. Only spinach is handled differently: briefly steamed and served all’agro, with butter, or sautéed with raisins and pine nuts.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. broccoli rabe or other leafy green vegetable
  • 1 Tbs. salt 
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped 
  • 1 small dried red chili, cut into pieces, or 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes 

Directions:

Pick over the greens carefully, discarding any yellow leaves. Trim away any tough stems. Rinse well.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rapid boil over high heat. Add the salt and the greens and boil until the greens are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, lift the greens out of the water and set them gently in a colander. Do not press or squeeze them: they should stay fairly wet. (The cooking water, filtered to remove any residual grit, can be reserved for another use, such as soup.)

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. When it is hot, add the garlic and chili and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Add the boiled greens to the oil in the pan, reduce the heat to medium and sauté until all the water from the greens has evaporated, 7 to 10 minutes.

Transfer the greens to a warmed serving dish and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Rome, by Maureen B. Fant (Oxmoor House, 2005).