The idea, which came to me as I was contemplating what to do with broccoli rabe leftover from a previous night’s dinner, is to pile the savory cooked vegetable onto toasted bread, blanket it lightly with cheese — just enough to add rich, melty unctuousness while keeping the overall dish healthfully balanced — and then broil it until the cheese is bubbly and the toast is crisp and nicely browned. The broccoli rabe I had that day, which had been blanched, sauteed with sliced garlic, and spiked with pepper flakes and lemon juice, seemed destined to be topped with a slice of boldly flavorful provolone cheese, for a melt that turned out so satisfying, I’m sharing the recipe for it here.
After devouring it, I couldn’t help but dream of all the veggie melt possibilities ahead. Any number of cooked vegetables could be the focal point — grilled, sauteed or roasted zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onions and/or mushrooms, a mound of cooked, seasoned greens such as spinach or Swiss chard, or a scoop of ratatouille, for example. For cheese options, you could go with any easily meltable variety such as fontina, mozzarella, cheddar or Monterey Jack.
Served as a starter, side or vegetarian main, the veggie melt is such a simple and practical concept, but one that’s so ripe with possibilities, I see a bright future for it ahead.
Make Ahead: The cooked broccoli rabe can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. If using, add the lemon just before serving, and warm in a skillet or return to room temperature before making the toasts.
- 2 to 3 tablespoons (optional) plus 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 large head broccoli rabe (about 1 pound), stems trimmed (may substitute with broccolini or baby broccoli)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more for serving
- 1 lemon, juiced (optional)
- 6 slices crusty Italian bread, ideally whole grain (the wider slices from the center of the loaf; 6 ounces total)
- 3 slices (3 ounces) provolone cheese, halved
Bring a large pot of water (salted with 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt, optional) to a boil and prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.
Add the broccoli rabe to the boiling water and, once the water returns to a boil, cook for 30 to 60 seconds, until slightly tender and bright green. Transfer to the ice bath to cool completely, about 1 minute, then to a towel-lined plate and patted until dry. Chop the broccoli rabe.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of the oil and the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic begins to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broccoli rabe, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until warmed through and tender, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, if using, over the broccoli rabe and toss to combine. Taste and add more juice as needed.
Position an oven rack to 5 to 6 inches from the broiler and preheat the broiler.
Brush both sides of the bread lightly with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Place the bread on a broiler pan and broil for about 1 minute per side or until lightly toasted, watching carefully to prevent burning. (If your broiler is on the bottom, transfer the pan to the broiler drawer.)
Transfer the toasts to a clean work surface. Pile each toast with the broccoli rabe, then top each with half of a slice of the cheese. Return the toasts to the broiler pan and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Lightly sprinkle each toast with additional crushed red pepper flakes, if desired, and serve.
Per serving (1 melt), based on 6.
Calories: 203; Total Fat: 12 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 6 mg; Sodium: 302 g Carbohydrates: 17 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 1 g; Protein: 7 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
From cookbook author and registered nutritionist Ellie Krieger.
Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to email@example.com.
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