IT IS THAT TIME OF THE YEAR.
which is, i have noticed, variably the last two weeks of august or july. alternately,
yes, that hotly anticipated time when – for those of us who don’t live in Italian-dominated neighbourhoods, where that shit runs like water – rapini descends from its 3$ Throne On High and suddenly becomes attainable for a buck or two, which is Awesome, and then i end up eating it every day until i have honestly pretty much ruined it for myself, but whatever dude, this path is stupid, it goes in spirals, perhaps in circles, but whichever way it goes, i will follow it.
and if you need to know what to do with rapini, do what you should do to pretty much any and every vegetable: cut off the tough, inedible parts (in this case, the basest, woodiest end of the stalk), sauté some onions and tons of garlic in as much butter and olive oil as you can afford to eat in one sitting, then add the vegetable in question (uh, rapini), some salt and pepper, and braise til done in a white wine that is otherwise good enough to drink. you can cover it for a bit if you want, but you gotta time it so that the wine still cooks down sufficiently to form a sauce with the butter and olive oil, of which i usually add more at the end. and a squirt of lemon. but only at the end.
i was hoping to unearth some rich folkloric history for rapini, but it doesn’t appear to have been a major player, mythologically. in lieu, however, i can offer personal anecdote, ie: the stuff of future myth.
on the cusp of the winter 2009, i found myself in Rome for the second time in as many years, after more than two decades of abject Romelessness (i might even say that i was happily Romeless, having no idea what i was missing, save that there was perhaps a wolf involved, some alliteratively-named dog children, the apex and decline of a great empire, and the decline of morrissey’s songwriting into sentimentality and affected bitterness). still quite conscious of Rome as the home of The Best Piece of Pizza I’d Ever Had, i resolved to find again the little side street market that so impressed me the first time around.
as i became increasingly confident in the odds (however seemingly unlikely) of finding this establishment (i knew it was on the other side from an epic fort of an epic bridge. a real fort-storming bridge), i began to feel a mounting anxiety – for i am all too conscious of the perverse flim-flammery of memory: certainly i had much benefitted from having this singular pizza experience, but what mythologizing had my mind already undertaken? how could i reasonably expect, should i find it again, this pizza to bear the weight of the mantle that i had bestowed upon it in recollection? wouldn’t even the most craftsmanly of crusts deteriorate under so romantic a burden?
this is how i live, can you believe it?
so over what i am pretty certain was the Ponte Sant’Angelo, and onto the side street which emerged out of my hazy brain into the cold, prohibitive light of geographical reality, where in moments i was standing, closely surrounded on all sides by the same (well, probably different) walls of pasta, olive oil, and pizza of my memory.
and as luck would have it, they didn’t have the pizza i had before. the fresh basil/green tomato/mozzarella di bufala? nope.
so i got the rapini and sausage. and it was awesome.
i dare say it may have been the Second Best Piece of Pizza I’ve Ever Had.
(and i’ve had a lot of pizza) .
so Thanks, Rapini. thanks for saving me, you know, from myself.
* i have discovered (discovered? no, ass, i looked it up. on the internet. i just friggin’ learned it. even that’s a stretch.) cime di rapa, means ‘turnip top’. ‘cuz it’s cruciferous. beware its crucifury.