One of our fondest memories while living abroad was biking through the rolling hills of Tuscany. We met our overly enthusiastic biking guides at a narrow street off of Florence’s Ponte Vecchio, rode their beat-up sputtering Volkswagen bus to a hilltop village forty-five minutes outside of the city, and hopped onto old rickety bicycles. Our guides led us to a twelfth century medieval castle where we sampled freshly pressed olive oil, followed by a leisurely lunch at a quaint family-owned ristorante. While catching our breaths, we devoured a stewed cannelloni bean ragout served atop toasted baguette slices with a drizzle of that fabulous olive oil.
Below is our variation on the dish with the addition of one of our favorite greens, broccoli rabe. Blanching the broccoli rabe before sauteing maintains its vibrant color and texture, while cutting its notoriously bitter flavor. We like to serve the ragout on thick slices of toasted ciabatta bread as a complementary side dish to roasted chicken stuffed with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and basil.
1 medium bunch broccoli rabe, stems removed and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 clove minced garlic
1 t red pepper flakes
1 15.5 oz can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 6 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 c chicken broth
Salt and pepper
4 1-inch slices of ciabatta bread
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cook the broccoli rabe in salted boiling water for 5 minutes, until tender. Drain in a colander and run under cold water. Set aside.
Place the bread slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle both sides with EVOO, and toast in the oven until dark brown, about 3-5 minutes per side.
In a large skillet, heat 1 T EVOO over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the beans and crushed tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cooked broccoli rabe, chicken broth and cook for 5-7 more minutes. Turn the heat to low, season with salt and pepper to taste, and let the flavors meld for 5-7 more minutes. Ladle the ragout on each toast and finish with a drizzle of fresh EVOO.
Sun-dried Tomato, Goat Cheese and Basil Stuffed Chicken Breasts
4 bone-in chicken breast halves
1 c chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 clove minced garlic
4 oz herbed goat cheese, softened
1/4 c basil, chiffonaded
2 T EVOO
salt and pepper throughout
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a small bowl, mix the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, goat cheese, basil and salt and pepper.
Place the chicken breasts on an oiled baking sheet. Loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers. Put 1/4 of the goat cheese mixture under the skin of each chicken breast. Rub the skin on each piece with EVOO and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through.