I used to think you should hate where you grew up and want to move away and start all over. Thats because I grew up in a city where everyone I know comes to run away. So where do I go? I crave open space. I want to wake up in the morning and see mountains. I want quiet. New York is the wrong place for all of those things unless I can look at mountains of skyscrapers from my own sound proof wraparound penthouse loft on Central Park South.
Reality check: Queens is home. Sometimes I think you can't appreciate any other place until you can appreciate where you grew up and who lives there. After all, where you were raised is so embedded in who you are. So a part of me is the rough middle aged checkout lady at Met Food Grocery with the gnarly outer borough accent, who while scanning my Italian bread and simultaneously giving dating advice to another teen checkout girl is quoted as saying, "get to the point with him, don't beat around no fuckin' bush. There's no bush to fuckin' beat around. That how I live my life."
I grabbed my loaf and as the automatic doors opened onto Eliot Avenue I felt like hopping in a cab to JFK, getting on a plane to the farthest location on the planet where I could find a bush to hind under and enjoy my Italian bread. But alas, there are no taxis in Middle Village, so I tucked the bread under my arm and walked to my apartment to make my favorite comfort food: a Broccoli Rabe Sandwich.
I have been going a little too "far" with the cooking lately: new dishes, new flavors. Moving out of my comfort zone is important but while the grass is always greener the food is not always better. I get all these ideas of how wonderful something new will taste, I romanticize it, but then it doesn't quite hit the mark. And all the while this old dish from my childhood was sitting there right under my nose waiting for me in all its glory. Perfection. Tried and true. Thats what I needed that day. Something to take me back to my roots. Something to make me appreciate home when I feel like a complete alien in the neighborhood where I grew up.
The Broccoli Rabe Sandwich. In elementary school, while other kids opened their My Little Pony and GI Joe lunch boxes and fetched their bologna and cheese sandwiches, I rustled around the plastic Met Food Grocery bag in which Rocco packed my olive oil soaked to perfection Broccoli Rabe Sandwich. The looks they gave me made me giggle as I enjoyed the bitter greens on Italian bread. Then for dessert instead of jello pudding snacks I would excitedly unravel the orange Rocco carved out for me like a curly cue.
And that afternoon, I was home again, until I finished my broccoli rabe sandwich that is. Its in these little pleasures that we can get it back.
You Can Go Home Again Broccoli Rabe Sandwich
1 bunch broccoli rabe
1 clove of garlic
1/2 tsp peperoncino (red pepper flakes)
extra virin olive oil
salt and pepper
loaf of italian bread
In a large pan with a lid, sautee garlic and peperoncino in olive oil. Before the garlic browns add the broccoli rabe season with salt and pepper and put the lid on so it can steam. Stir after a few minutes so the greens on the bottom don't burn. Cook until the greens are softened. Cut a loaf of Italian bread to the desired size and simply put the greens on top and enjoy!