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I’ve been looking for a way to introduce broccoli rabe to my boys. They’re teenagers now, and their tastes are more developed than when they were short and “yum” and “yuck” were binary, and not part of a continuum. They eat all sorts of weird things now, quite a few of which fill me with awkward pride. But still, there are a couple of items that I haven’t gotten around to introducing for one reason or another.

Broccoli rabe is one of them.

I love the stuff. It’s a variant of broccoli that tastes as if it had spent millennia cracking through compacted soil, nutrient-poor and predator-rich, with ocean brine for rain. Everything about it suggests it evolved to fight its environment, not blend in to grow into fat miniature trees like its bland, heady namesake.

It’s bitter. And in cooking it, you can either give in to that bitterness, steam it and serve it plain; erect barriers to contain it, as in orecchiette pasta with rabe and sausage, which surrounds it with bland pasta and cheese and salty, spicy meat; or play against the bitter by pairing it with something sweet.

Raisins can do a lot. So can balsamic vinegar. But we use raisins in other dishes (cous cous! Lentils!). And I, for one, am glad we have reached the other side of our cultural infatuation with balsamic vinegar. It has its place, but its place is not in everything, and for a while there it was entirely inescapable.

So in the supermarket this afternoon, specifically anointed with the task of picking up a veg for dinner, I came across some beautiful heads of broccoli rabe. And then, an instant later, I was confronted by an absolutely perfect-looking yam.

Okay, I thought, let’s do this.

Vaguely Thanksgiving-like Rabe and Yam

1 pound broccoli rabe
1 large yam
Olive oil
2 shallots
1 tablespoon salt
Chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries, sweetened or not
Pomegranate seeds, would be interesting
Salt and pepper, to taste

Set two large saucepans on the stove. Fill one three-quarters full with water and set on high heat to boil.

Trim the thick, woody stalks off the rabe. Discard or save in the freezer for soup, if you do that sort of thing. I used to more than I do now. Set the trimmed rabe aside.

While waiting for the water to boil, put some oil in the second pan, keep the heat very low, dice the shallots, throw in the oil and let them melt into translucence.

Grate half the yam and add the grated yam to the shallots. Stir. Slice the rest of the yam into thin, potato chip-sized pieces. Toss those in and stir.

By now the water in the first pot should be boiling. Add the salt, and then the rabe. Boil uncovered for three minutes.

In the second pot, add chicken or vegetable broth to cover the potatoes and shallots. Bring them to a boil, then cut the heat to a simmer.

After three minutes, the rabe should be bright green and the stalks should pierce easily with a fork. Remove the rabe from the boiling water (either by dumping into a colander in the sink, thus losing the water, or by scooping the rabe out with a porous ladle or other utensil that will get the rabe out while leaving the hot water in the pot, where it can be used for making pasta or rice or some other crazy thing) and add the plants to the potato-onion-broth mix. Stir. Cook down gently, stirring so the bottom doesn’t burn, until the broth has reduced and the mixture can hold its shape in a spoon.

Chop the dried cranberries roughly, just to open them up, and add them in the last couple of minutes, along with a couple of grinds of salt and pepper to bring the flavors to the front. If pomegranate seeds are in season, they would be interesting in place of the cranberries, and would make the whole thing that much more festive. Don’t chop them, though—they’re a mess and take forever to clean up.