At first glance, the title may lead you to believe that this blog, written from a humble little fruit shop in Inner Western Sydney is going to refer to some horrendous form of French criminality. I am instead here to pay homage to a leafy green winter vegetable that most of southern Italy goes crazy for during the winter months! By the way, that strange awkward look on a customers face when they've just asked you how it's spelt, never really gets comfortable...
Depending on where you're from in Italy will depend on what you call this poor-mans green. Rape, Broccoli Di Rapa, Cimi di Rapa or even Fiarrielle are a few of the aliases you may have to mention before it's understood what exactly it is you're talking about.
Rape, as I will refer to them here, have a very distinct flavour with an intensity that may vary depending on their preparation. Many prefer to blanch or boil them to varying degrees before their final preparation which will reduce the intensity of the poignant mustardy flavour that hits the back of your nose like a mild form of wasabi. Our family instead prefer to sauté so as to retain the fullness of their wonderful flavour.
They can be used as the base for a pasta dish, from orecchiette to spaghetti, as a side or with some polenta or fresh crusty Italian bread you can make them a meal in their own right.
Because of their strong mustardy flavour they go perfectly with pork, generally with sausages, pork belly or even fresh salami. Some cook them with anchovies, pecorino cheese or just a simple tomato and garlic base.
As the season only lasts as long as the cold weather, they won't be around for much longer. When selecting your bunch of Rape, look for nice green leaves with lots of broccoli, it is the broccoli we are most interested in. Ensure that the broccoli haven't bloomed and that they are tight green buds as opposed to yellow flower heads. However, as the weather warms up we'll begin to see the odd flush of yellow bloom, this too is fine.
Happy adventuring into the flavoursome world of Southern Italian cuisine.