One night when I was a boy I rolled out of bed in the middle of the night and crushed the back of my skull on the sharp corner of a massive cast iron radiator. We're talking actual trauma here, folks. The dent that it left on the back of my head is still there.
I tell you this because it is perhaps the only way to explain why I never put these two vegetables together before today.
Seems my brother Joe has been right all these years. I really did get a lot less smart after that head cracking.
And so I'll thank one Julia della Croce for setting me straight in this vegetative matter. In her very nice cookbook, Italian Home Cooking, there is a recipe called "Viola Buitoni's Sauteed Broccoli Rapini with Potatoes."
The only thing that kept me from smacking myself upside the head when I came upon this brilliant joining of two vegetables was the fear of doing any more damage than already has been done.
This is simple stuff we're talking about. You boil a couple of potatoes and peel them after they've cooled. Just don't let them get soft, because you'll be cutting them into pieces for frying later.
Take a mess of whole garlic cloves and saute them nice and slow in olive oil, then set aside. While you're doing this, take a bunch of broccoli rabe, chop it into 3-inch pieces, cook in salted water for about 5 minutes and drain.
Fry the potatoes until golden. Then add in the rabe and garlic to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and mix together thoroughly.
Are we talking head-smacking material here or what?