Brocolli rabe in wine sauce
With the first huge load of vegetables from my former host mother's overabundant garden out in Kameoka came a bunch of na no hana (broccoli rabe), which I have never seen before coming to Japan. I guess I was stuck in a hole for years (aka college dining). The first time I cooked na no hana (with the sesame saba), it was too bitter to finish. I thought I would never have it in my kitchen again… until Okasan gave me a plastic bagful along with spinach, green onions, mizuna, etc. from her garden. I hardly gave it a second glance and put it in the back of my fridge.
But such fresh, beautiful vegetables need to be eaten! They can't just rot in the fridge! And I also like to think of myself as capable of facing my food fears, so the na no hana came back out of cold storage after half a week. It was still crisp and the flowers in perfect condition. I really wonder how long this vegetable can last.
However, I wasn't about to follow Okasan's directions of boiling and putting a bit of soy sauce over them, because A) boiling takes out all the nutrients and makes vegetables limp, grey, and dull, and B) salt, which soy sauce has plenty of, seems to just enhance bitter flavors. Instead, I followed Julia Child's advice for all green vegetables… blanche them (boil very quickly) to bring but the vegetable's color and not to overcook them. And instead of soy sauce, I made a wine sauce based on Alanna's wine-glaze recipe, that has honey and soy sauce in it, the perfect balance of sweet for the bitter rabe, and a nice note of Asian flavor to make the dish work with dinner, a meal of ochazuke (tea poured over rice, recipe at a later date).
Wine-aji no Na no Hana (ワイン味の菜の花)
To blanche the na no hana, I brought a pot of water to boiling. Into the pot went the freshly washed vegetable for no more than a minute. The color became like that in the picture, but the water also turned instantly green, a sign, I think, that a bit of the bitter flavor also left the vegetable.
For the wine sauce, I put 1 tbs butter into a sauce pan until it melted. In went 1/2 cup red wine and 1 tbs honey. Right before putting it over the na no hana, I put in 1 tbs soy sauce (which I added this late to have it stand on its own against the wine) and 1 tsp corn starch to thicken the sauce (which it didn't have enough heat to do).
Since I only made a handful of the vegetable, I had far too much wine sauce, so I put it in a jar in the refrigerator for use on the rest of the bagful of na no hana or on some meat maybe…