Category Archives: Grains

Spicy Shrimp and Veggie Rice Bowl

My favorite food trend right now? The rice bowl. They’ve been around forever, of course. I imagine the entire Asian community is laughing at our “new” obsession with putting things on a bowl of rice and calling it dinner. That being said, one of my favorite things about them is the variety you can bring to it. Want to go Mexican, Thai, Portuguese, Middle Eastern, Italian? Sure, why not. Throw together a few ingredients and spices from the area of the world you have in mind, and throw it on a bowl of rice (or whatever grain happens to float your boat), and you are all set. These find their way on to my menu at least once a week.

While there are usually a few different components, they are quick to throw together and perfect for “build your own” dinners that will please everyone at the table. It’s easy to vary the greens, protein or veggies according to your personal tastes and whatever happens to be in your refrigerator and always fun to experiment with different flavor combos. With this one the only spicy element is the sauce, so add more or less depending on how spicy you like it. Also, you can add more of the gochujang (a spicy Korean pepper paste) into the sauce to make it more spicy as well.

One of my favorite new ingredients with which I’ve been experimenting is finishing salt. I have at least six flavors of infused sea salt from Lords of Salt (check them out at and I am having so much fun with them! The black garlic flavor was perfect for this, adding a nice depth of flavor to the greens and shrimp and the perfect finishing touch on top.

Spicy Shrimp and Veggie Rice Bowl. When in doubt put an egg on it!

Spicy Shrimp and Veggie Rice Bowl. Yeah, I hid some sautéed greens under there somewhere too. When in doubt put an egg on it! 

Spicy Shrimp and Veggie Rice Bowl
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 cup dry Batsmati or brown Rice
1/2 pound shrimp
1 bunch chard (or spinach or kale or other green you like), cut into ribbons
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 cup thinly sliced cabbage
1-2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 green onion, sliced
2-3 eggs (1 per serving)
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1-2 tbsp. gochujang (find at Asian markets, or sometimes in the Asian section of the grocery store)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 small clove garlic
Finishing salt (I used Lords of Salt black garlic salt, but any coarse sea salt will work fine)

Cook rice according to package directions. Heat large skillet over medium heat. If using chard, add stems first and let cook for a couple minutes in a bit of olive oil. Then add 1 clove minced garlic, sliced mushrooms, green ribbons and a pinch of sea salt. Sauté 4-5 minutes until greens are tender. (If using spinach, this only takes a couple of minutes).

Remove greens to a bowl, add a drizzle of olive oil to pan and then add shrimp. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Sauté for a couple of minutes until shrimp is no longer pink. Remove to a small bowl.

Build bowls with a big scoop of rice, topped with greens, shrimp, and raw veggies. I usually put each thing in its own little section to make it pretty, but hey, a pile works too.

In a small bowl mix mayonnaise, 1 small clove garlic (smashed into a paste), sesame oil, and gochujang. Stir well until ingredients are blended into a thick sauce.

Add another drizzle of olive oil to the pan. Break eggs into pan and turn down to medium low. Cook slowly until white are done for a perfectly yolky sunny side up egg. Slide egg on top of bowls and sprinkle with a bit of finishing salt and green onion.

Serves 2-3

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Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

In my quest to use up a massive amount of zucchini given to me this summer I came across this gem of a recipe.

I have to say when it comes to baked goods, I’ve never been the biggest fan of the gluten-free, no flour, no sugar, no butter (no good stuff!) variety.  While there are some good recipes out there, most of them just can’t hold a candle to the real thing…in my humble opinion.  Now if you’re on a special diet and you have to go there, I understand but otherwise?  Why bother?  This recipe is worth bothering.  It’s every bit as good as something that has the sugar, butter and flour.  The fact that one of these brownies is just a fraction of the calories of a regular one AND are gluten-free just makes them easier to justify.  But the real reason to make them is because they are delicious!  And if you ask me, that’s the main reason for making dessert to begin with, am I right?

The original recipe only called for 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, and you can use that amount if you want.  I am a chocolate fanatic so I doubled it, and used the big bittersweet ones.  Fabulous!

Fudgy, delicious, and good for you?  Yep!

Fudgy, delicious, and good for you? Yep!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
(slightly adapted from

1/2 cup all natural unsalted peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup unsweetened natural applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup dark chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×11 baking pan (or an ultimate brownie pan!) with nonstick cooking spray.

Place oats in blender or food processor and process until finely ground. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be perfect but it should take a few minutes. Mine still had some whole oats and pieces mixed in with the ground stuff.  Worked fine.  Set aside.

In a large bowl of electric mixer, cream together peanut butter, applesauce, honey and vanilla until smooth. Add in zucchini, cocoa powder, ground oats, baking soda, and salt; mix until well combined. Gently fold in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tooth pick inserted into middle comes out almost clean.

Cool brownies on wire rack then cut into squares. Yum!

Cooling brownies.  I used my ultimate brownie pan (gift from my dear sister) so all my brownies have edges!  The edges are my favorite part.

Cooling brownies. I used my ultimate brownie pan (gift from my dear sister) so all my brownies have edges! The edges are my favorite part.

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Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

In an age where it seems that everyone I know is going gluten-free or full-on Paleo, I’ve embraced my whole grains, and have been exploring some new ones.  I think in moderation, just about anything can be part of a healthy diet and whole grains offer many benefits.  They are full of nutrients and fiber, and are very filling, especially when they are the base of a salad.

I’ve never tried farro before but this one dish made me a fan.  It has a great chewy texture, with a mild, nutty flavor.  While not gluten-free, it is considerably lower in gluten than most other grains, and at least according to the sources I checked, can often be eaten by people who don’t tolerate gluten well.

This salad uses the best of the late summer veggies that are still available, but you could easily modify it to include whatever happens to be in season.  I found some very cool tomatoes – blueberry tomatoes – at the market that I had never tried before.  They were delicious, but feel free to use the cherry tomato or diced fresh tomato of your choice.

Blueberry Tomatoes!  Very yummy.

Blueberry Tomatoes! Very yummy.

This is definitely filling enough for a meat-free meal, but feel free to add some grilled chicken or fish along with it if you’re up for something a bit more hearty.

Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

1 pkg. farro
4 ears of corn, kernels removed
1 cucumber, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
1/4-1/2 c. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
Grilled chicken (optional)
Balsamic glaze (optional)

Cook farro according to package directions and set aside.  While that is cooking, heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet and add onion, jalapeno and garlic to pan.  Sauté a few minutes until onion is tender.  Add corn and cook and stir another minute or two.

In a large bowl, add farro, onion mixture, tomatoes, cucumber, 1/4 cup rice vinegar and olive oil.  Add a big pinch of salt and some fresh ground pepper.  Stir well and taste.  Add a bit more vinegar if it needs some extra oomph.  Adjust seasonings as needed and serve.  Top with grilled chicken and/or balsamic glaze if desired.

We served ours with a little sliced grilled chicken and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.  Mmmm.

We served ours with a little sliced grilled chicken and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Mmmm.

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Peanut Butter Granola Bars

In my search for healthier snacks that aren’t rabbit food, I came across a simple recipe for granola bars.  This is what I would call a “guideline” recipe.  Take the basics here and add and subtract stuff you like.

I did two batches of these.  In one batch I was a little more generous with the peanut butter, and I added some extra peanuts and dried cranberries.  In the other batch I used chocolate peanut butter in place of the regular stuff, and added mini chocolate chips.  When I cut the bars I did have some crumbling, which resulted in some bars and some loose granola that was perfect for tossing on top of oatmeal or yogurt.  Adding a little oil to the recipe would probably help with the crumbling, but I was shooting for healthy here so I didn’t bother with it.

Homemade granola bars, two different ways.

Homemade granola bars, two different ways.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used natural PB with no sugar, I also did one batch with natural chocolate peanut butter – they make that!)
1/4 cup honey

Other mix-ins such as dried fruit, nuts or chocolate chips!

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Melt peanut butter in microwave or on the stove.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well, using your hands if necessary.  Add a little more honey or a drizzle of oil if it seems too dry.  Spray a pan with cooking spray and press mixture into the pan firmly.  Bake for 10-15 minutes (bake a little longer if you like them really crunchy).  Let cool a bit and cut into bars or crumble for loose granola.

Which one to eat first? Decisions, decisions...

Which one to eat first? Decisions, decisions…

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Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

I’ve never been a fan of grits.  I think it’s one of those things you have to grow up eating to appreciate.  But I love polenta.  This doesn’t really make sense because they are basically the same thing.  And yet, it’s true.  I don’t know if it’s the way it’s cooked, or the way it’s presented or if it’s just in my head.  I suppose in the end it doesn’t really matter.  In any case, this post is about polenta.  Which is wonderful.  Especially when you mix cream cheese and butter into it.  If you are on a gluten-free diet, or just wanting something different from rice or potatoes to smother with something, eat this.  You can thank me later.

Topping off the polenta is a delicious mushroom and sausage concoction.  Together it was heaven on a plate.  When I first showed this recipe to my daughter Claire she was suspicious of the whole thing.  It didn’t look like much.  But in the end, she made the loudest yummy noises of all.  This disappeared in record time but it will definitely be making a reappearance in our kitchen very soon!

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces hot Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 – 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked polenta
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter

To make polenta, bring broth and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add polenta, stirring well. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, cream cheese, and butter.

Meanwhile, eat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Remove sausage from casings. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms; sauté 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sausage, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium; simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.  Serve over polenta.

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Quinoa-Stuffed Portobellas

What do you make when you have one dinner guest who’s a vegetarian and one who’s watching the carbs?  It’s a challenge, but not insurmountable.  For this meal I combined these stuffed mushrooms with a big Harvest Salad.  I love portobellos, and they are perfect for stuffing with whatever strikes your fancy.  I gave these a little Greek spin with some feta and kalamata olives and if I do say so myself, they turned out great!  If you’re going “no carb” instead of low carb, add more veggies and ditch the quinoa.

Quinoa-Stuffed Portobella

Quinoa-Stuffed Portobellos

6 portobello mushroom caps
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups spinach
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup feta cheese
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup chopped basil

Cook quinoa according to package directions.  Preheat oven to 375˚.  Remove stems from mushrooms.  Turn upside down on lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  In a little more olive oil, saute onions and garlic until soft.  Add spinach right at the end and saute a minute or so until wilted.  In a bowl combine quinoa, onion and spinach mixture, olives and tomatoes.  Season with salt & pepper.  Scoop into mushrooms.  Top with feta and basil.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Quinoa-Stuffed Portobellos, ready to pop in the oven.

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Cheesy Quinoa Bake

The more I cook with quinoa the more I like it.  This is a tasty take on mac & cheese – without the mac.  For my gluten-free friends, this is a great alternative to traditional mac & cheese (just leave off the panko topping).  Quinoa is a small grain that is high in protein and can be substituted for rice or pasta in most recipes.  Use whatever veggies you like best.  This was what happened to be in my fridge at the time and it was a delicious combo.

Cheesy Quinoa Bake…drizzled with my favorite hot sauce!

Cheesy Quinoa Bake
(adapted from Around the Table: Loving Food in RI and Beyond)

1 1/4 cup quinoa, uncooked
2-3 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup onion, chopped
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Pinch of season salt (whatever kind you like, I used something called Southern Flavor, but Lawry’s or Mrs. Dash would work too)
1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, plus extra for sprinkling on top
1/2 cup panko (optional, leave out for gluten-free)
1/4 cup parmesan, shredded

Preheat oven to 350˚ and butter a casserole dish.  Cook quinoa according to package directions.  Saute veggies and garlic in butter until softened.  In a large bowl whisk eggs, milk, and seasonings.  Fold in quinoa, veggies and sharp cheddar until combined.  Transfer mixture to the casserole dish.  Sprinkle with additional sharp cheddar, panko (if using) and parmesan.  Bake  uncovered for 20 minutes until top is golden brown.  Drizzle with your favorite hot sauce if you like that sort of thing!  Serves 4-6 as a main dish.

Cheesy Quinoa Bake

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Jambalaya Night

A friend asked me recently if I knew how to make jambalaya and I honestly couldn’t even remember.  I’ve EATEN jambalaya.  Does that count?  I seem to recall making it many years ago, but if it’s been that long, obviously it was high time to make it again.

Searching for recipes for this little project, I realized something:  there are about a million variations of jambalaya.  I chose one that was fairly basic for the test drive.  This particular variation has a lot of tomato, which I personally liked.  The Creole spices (which appear to be a mixture mostly of pepper and garlic) give the dish a real kick and the combination of ingredients lead to a wonderful smelling house!

Luckily this recipe also serves 6-8 people, so invite a few friends and have a jambalaya night!

Jambalaya with a side of fresh green beans.


2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 celery ribs, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. Creole seasoning
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes, with juice
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups uncooked long grain rice
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 green onions, chopped

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and cook, stirring, 5 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove sausage with a slotted spoon; set aside.  Add onion, pepper, celery, garlic and seasonings.  Saute 5 minutes or so until veggies are tender.

Veggies and seasonings. Smells so good, but don’t breathe too deep right over the pan, those peppers will get you!

Stir in reserved sausage, tomatoes, broth and rice.

This is what it looks like before the rice sucks up all the liquid. Looks pretty good to me! Is there a jambalaya soup experiment in my future? I think so!

Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.  Stir in shrimp, cover and cook 5 minutes or until done.  Sprinkle each serving with green onions.

**If you are making this for a group that includes vegetarians (which I was), you can saute the meat first and set it aside to serve on top of the rice dish, rather than cooking it with it.  I sauteed the sausage and then added the shrimp for a few minutes at the end and sprinkled it all with a bit of Creole seasoning for some extra flavor.  Vegetable broth can also be substituted for the chicken broth.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

I like to subscribe to cooking magazines.  It keeps me from buying too many cookbooks and gives me tons of ideas, especially for using seasonal foods.  I usually switch it up and order a different magazine each year.  One of my favorites that I’ve kept coming back to is Cooking Light.  I think part of that is because just the name makes me feel like I’m eating healthy.

I have had great success with CL recipes overall.  I should be honest and also add that I’m not all that great about following the recipes as they are printed.  So a lot of the things that make CL recipes lighter – low-fat cheese and dairy, etc. – are not really used when I make them, so the recipes turn out more “Cooking Medium”.  I really don’t like the taste and texture of most of the low-fat versions of cheeses, sour creams, skim milk and the like and I rarely have them in the house.  Even so, I think these are still tasty recipes on the healthier side, and that’s good enough for me.  This is one I actually followed pretty closely to the original and I’ll definitely be making it again.

I think you could use any size tomatoes for these.  I actually prefer the texture of the small to medium tomatoes to the large one so I just made more.

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes
(from Cooking Light) 

2 poblano chiles
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. salt – divided
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. black pepper
6 large ripe tomatoes (or more if they are smaller)
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup cheddar-jack cheese, shredded

Preheat broiler.  Cut the chiles in half lengthwise, remove seeds and stems.  Place skin side up on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Broil until skin is blackened.  Remove from oven and place in a paper or plastic bag to cool.  Add corn and onion to pan and place back under the broiler.  Cook  about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Put in a bowl.  Peel chiles and coarsely chop, add to the bowl with the corn and onions.  Add oregano, oil, lime juice, 1/2 tsp. salt, cumin and black pepper.  Stir to combine and set aside.

Cut tops off tomatoes.  Carefully scoop out the tomato pulp, leaving the shells intact.  Drain pulp through a sieve over a bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract liquid.  Reserve 1 1/4 cups liquid, discard the rest.  Sprinkle inside of tomato shells with salt and invert onto a rack to drain while you cook the quinoa.

Place quinoa in a fine sieve, rinse and rub the grains together with your fingers, and drain well. (I bought pre-rinsed quinoa so I skipped this step, but if you didn’t buy that kind, this will help prevent any bitterness the grain might have). Combine reserved tomato liquid, 1/4 cup water (use more if you didn’t have 1 1/4 cups tomato liquid – you should have 1 1/2 cups total liquid), quinoa, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cover.  Cook for 15 minutes on low until liquid is absorbed.  Fluff with fork and add to corn and pepper mixture.  Stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Stuff each tomato with quinoa mixture. Place stuffed tomatoes in a casserole dish or jelly roll pan.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for 15 minutes, until tops are browned and cheese is melted.

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes, fresh from the oven!

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Freaking Awesome Quinoa Burgers!

Veggie burgers are one of those things that give vegetarians a bad name.  Because who could possibly trust someone’s opinion of food when they think that weird combo of nuts and seeds and beans is the same as a hamburger?  At least that’s what I used to think.  Now I’m a little more open-minded.  But still not a huge fan of most veggie burgers.  In fact, I am not a fan in general of any “fake” food.  That is…food that is pretending to be other food.  If you want a hamburger, eat a hamburger.  If you want vegetables, eat vegetables, but trying to make me think those vegetables are a hamburger is just silly.  I won’t fall for it, I tell you!

These burgers are not pretending to be hamburgers.  In fact, I’m not even sure it’s accurate to call them burgers, although they are burger-shaped.  Call them patties, or fritters, or disk-shaped deliciousness, but whatever you call them, call them freaking awesome!  I’ll admit I was skeptical when my friend, Becky, gave me this recipe.  As mentioned above, I have some minor biases in the veggie burger department.  I did not want a plate of birdseed.  Against my better judgement, I gave them a try.  And I’m so glad I did, because I’ll be making them again and again!

These paired up beautifully with sautéed broccoli rabe.  While I’ve read that broccoli rabe is actually closer genetically to some greens than it is to broccoli, I find it reminds me a lot of broccoli.  It does tend to have a little more of a bite to it when it’s raw, but a quick dip in boiling water gets rid of any extra bitterness and it tastes really good, especially tossed with a little garlic and spice.

Freaking Awesome Quinoa Burgers & Broccoli Rabe. Don’t be fooled by the reasonable portions shown here. In all honesty, we all ate at least 4 of these babies.

Freaking Awesome Quinoa Burgers

1 cup uncooked quinoa
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated zucchini
3 eggs
3 tbsp. flour
2 green onions, chopped – white and green parts
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Olive oil for frying

Cook the quinoa first by bringing 2 cups of water and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil over high heat.  Add one cup of quinoa, stir and reduce heat to low.  Cover and cook about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl combine the cooked quinoa, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, carrot, eggs, flour, green onions, sugar, pepper, cumin, salt and garlic powder.

Mixture is somewhat sticky. Use a measuring cup for scooping patties!

Heat a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat.  Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop mixture into pan and flatten a bit to 1/2″ thickness.  Cook 4-5 minutes per side, until golden brown and crispy.  Makes 10-15 patties.  Serve plain, or with the sauce of your choice.  I made a quickie mixture of mayonnaise, hot sauce and lime juice to drizzle on top.

What is broccoli rabe? Looks a lot like broccoli that’s been stretched.

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe

1 bunch broccoli rabe
1 shallot
3 cloves garlic
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.  Add broccoli rabe and cook 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.  Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan.  Add garlic, shallots and crushed red pepper.  Cook a couple of minutes until garlic starts to brown.  Add broccoli rabe and saute for 1-2 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper and parmesan. Eat hot!

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