Saturday, February 27, 2010

Devil's Food Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Anyone who knows me knows I like birthdays. A lot. A lot as in this might be a bit unhealthy for a twenty-something like myself.  In general, I have a countdown going about three months out for mine, and I always get a DQ ice cream cake (the crunchy cookie in the middle keeps me coming back). Yes, I know, I love to bake. However, baking my own birthday cake is not top on my list. Eating a mediocre one someone else made for me is right behind it (because you know how picky I am). For my special day, I go with DQ.

My birthday falls in the summer, so in grade school I never got to bring in treats on my birthday.  We weren't in session and most of my friends were on vacation. Heck, I was almost always on vacation.  Because my mom is awesome, she had me celebrate in school on my half birthday.  For her this meant THREE of her children bringing in birthday (and in my case, half-birthday) treats within two weeks of each other.  Poor Mama Fierce. This is probably why I  distinctly remember bringing in jello-jigglers (red ones).  I'm not sure what grade I was in (though it probably fell around Jell-O 1-2-3's market dominance).  I remember the coolness of the squares and how they left my hands a little red after I played with them for a while.  Mom probably walked them the two blocks to the school during lunchtime, carrying them on that plaid lucite tray we all loved.  Hey mom, if you're reading (because we know you're our biggest fan) let us know if that was just one instance or multiple.

Birthdays are so special because it's your very own holiday... one you don't have to share with any of your three siblings.  Besides, I'm a Leo, so of course its all about me to begin with.  How could a birthday not be fun?

A few things pointed me to the cupcake last week. After getting accosted at work by my coworker thinking my foil-wrapped lunch (pizza) was Valentine's day baked goods (she was so excited, I felt bad letting her down), I said I'd bring in something later in the week. Then I realized two of my coworkers have birthdays coming up.  All signs pointed toward "bake."

My workplace is very unlike that of my sister's. There is no conference room in which to take unflattering photographs of cake on paper plates. The pace is too quick and work is too independent to gather my co workers together, light candles and sing songs.  Sit down and eat a piece of cake? No time for that, either. Not that I want to make a cake for 40 people.  The obvious choice was mini-cupcakes.  I left them in the one room we all have to be in at some point in the day (a room that can't comfortably fit more than three people, only two of whom can sit), and left a note that one should be eaten per employee. When you're baking for that size crowd, it's the only economical option. Luckily, I had a few more than that at home during the process (you know, just to make sure they were good).  Read on after the jump for the cutest little cupcake ever ...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Best Banana Bread Ever

There is someone in my house who buys bananas like they are going out of style.  I don't understand it.  There's no rule that says you must purchase the entire bunch - the grocery store police won't arrest you if you buy AN banana or TWO bananas.  Yet the bananas continue to appear.  What's a girl to do with all these very ripe bananas?

Banana bread.  Duh.  But to get specific - this is the best banana bread.  I don't want to go too far in calling it ... healthy ... but it's wholesome in all the right ways.  Meaning, you won't eat it and think "boy this is healthy" which everyone knows is code for "this tastes like crap but I guess I'm supposed to like it because it's good for me."  You wouldn't even need to convince someone to eat it for health benefits.  It's delicious on its own merit.  It's sweetened by honey and a hint of vanilla, and has a gorgeous crumb that doesn't fall apart when you take a bite.  People, banana bread is not cornbread.  It should not be crumbly, okay?

I adapted this from a very basic recipe that I had written down on an index card a few years ago.  With some tweaks along the way, this recipe has morphed into The Best Banana Bread Ever.  It makes two loaves, is easily halved, and even easier MINI-SIZED!!!  This time around, it yielded one regular loaf and six mini-loaves (with chocolate chips).  Yes, I own 14 mini bread loaf pans.  What are you going to do about it, huh?  

The Best Banana Bread EVER

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3 cups mashed ripe bananas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
2 eggs
2 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (optional, but why wouldn't you?)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease two 9 x 5 in loaf pans (or 12 mini-loaf pans because they are way cuter and easier to give to friends).

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, wheat germ, salt and baking soda.  In a medium bowl, combine bananas, vegetable oil, honey, eggs, egg whites, and vanilla extract.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Add the banana mixture and stir until just combined.  (Do not overbeat or the bread will be heavy.  This is especially important because of the whole wheat flour and wheat germ - be nice to the gluten!)  Stir in the chocolate chips if using.  Pour batter into prepared pans.

For two standard loaves, bake 60 minutes.  (I know, it sounds like a long time, but start checking for doneness at 45 minutes with a toothpick.)  For mini loaves, start checking at 25 minutes.  Your house is going to smell SO DANG GOOD.

Cool on wire rack.  Enjoy plain or with butter or with cream cheese or with oh crap I am so hungry now.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chocolate Almond Meringues

The evening began with a friend I hadn't spent time with in quite a while and a bottle of wine. We perused recipes, settling on a simple one that turned out to be more perfect than we could have anticipated. It gave us an easy task (the wine necessitated that) and a long baking time (good for catching up, she even did the dishes which guarantees another invite).

It was so simple. One minute we're having girl talk and the next we're oohing and awwwwing over puffy egg whites! The recipe doesn't entail a ton of active time, but you do need to work quickly once the eggs are at stiff-peak stage. I also recommend making them bite-sized, as they crumble pretty quickly once you've bitten into them.

If you haven't had a meringue, don't be scared off by the less than gorgeous photo here. They look like little monsters. Know that once you bite into it, it will melt in your mouth.

(recipe after the jump... thanks to c fierce)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Operation: Cheeseburger

Imagine, if you will, that you're relaxing on the couch on a snowy Sunday afternoon. Flipping through the channels, your heart rate is rising as you get way too involved in the men's Nordic combined Olympic race. COME ON AMERICA!  You need to watch something a little less involved. Hmmm, what's on Food Network? Three hours of that Mark-McGrath-from-Sugar-Ray-only-bloated guy? Sign me up, yes, I will watch six episodes of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, moving only to adjust my sweatpants. Yes, I will crave cheeseburgers like the deserts miss the rain.

So this, dear readers, is what led us to Operation: Cheeseburger. Too much Guy Fieri can do that to a person. We scoured the food mags and blogs for the best recipes - ketchup, mayo, brioche buns and burgers were on the horizon. And good lord was it delicious. I would suggest you skip the step that involved grinding the meat from sirloin and strip steak. Fun, but slightly unnecessary and extremely time-consuming, but it makes for a nice photo, doesn't it?

Homemade mayonnaise comes together in approximately 32 seconds. People, do this. Your life will never be the same. I am not even going to make the recipe hard: Put two egg yolks, juice from a half a lemon and 1/8 teaspoon of sugar in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse for about ten seconds. Then add in a steady stream of 3/4 cup of vegetable or canola oil (don't use olive oil, it's way too overpowering) while you run the FoodPro (what, that's what Kevin on Iron Chef calls it) for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides, try not to eat it straight from the bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste.

DONE. That was easy, right? I'm telling you, it is so delicious and so worth it. What is equally delicious is homemade ketchup. It takes a LOT longer than the mayo but it is so rustic and flavorful. I'm not saying I'm throwing away my Heinz 57 anytime soon, but the homemade ketchup is killer. Check out the recipe after the jump.

So, you've got your burgers, your mayo and your ketchup made ... unless you are J Fierce, you need a bun for this bad boy. (It's true - she eats a cheeseburger sans bun, knife and fork, like a wackadoo.) Do not be afraid of making these cheeseburger buns. They are so easy and So.Very.Very.Good. Light and fluffy, but sturdy enough to hold up a big juicy burger with all the toppings, these burger buns are worth the time. And what, you're just watching Guy Fieri and his bad facial hair all afternoon, get yourself in the kitchen and get these going.

Toppings and sides are up to you - personally, my preference is a slather of mayo and ketchup on the top bun, followed by a good melty cheese like Havarti or Gouda, caramelized onions and bacon. If you're like KFTF, you will put the lettuce and any other toppings (such as disgusting pickles, ew I just barfed on my keyboard) between the burger and the bottom bun to maximize potential. Sides, as you can see in the above photo, involve more onions and baby red potatoes. I am not going to lie, these were roasted in bacon fat. No, I do not weight 400 pounds, but at times I wonder how in the world I don't.

Do with your burger what you will, but pretty please, make it homemade. Recipes after the jump (did you see how I did that like a real live blogger?  So proud).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Storm Survival: Bake Some Bread (UPDATED with photos and two bad puns!)

Updated with my own photo of my street from Sunday (pre-blizzard-part-two)!  (Please note the height of the snowdrift in relation to the cross-walk push button.  That is not an optical illusion, internet.)

Being good Midwestern girls, the Sisters Fierce are well-prepared for snow storms.  Growing up, we lived two doors up the street from a Methodist church with a huge parking lot.  Any time it snowed, we spend countless hours with the Brothers Fierce and assorted neighborhood kids playing in the parking lot.  "Playing in the snow in the parking lot" in print doesn't really sound like as much fun - or as safe, really - as it was.  (Don't worry, the parking lot was plowed, so there were always massive snowdrifts just begging for sledding.)  So play in the snow in the parking lot we did - building tunnels, igloos, snow forts ... we played outside until we were so cold we couldn't feel our fingers and toes.  We survived snow like any good kids would.

Fast forward to The Great Snowpocalypse of 2010 of the Eastern Shoreboard and you will find the Sisters Fierce surviving just as we did as kids.  Now, that doesn't mean you will find C Fierce building a fort on the middle of Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC.  You won't find J Fierce running around with mismatched gloves in the nearest parking lot she can find.  Nope, what do the Sisters Fierce do when it snows?

We bake.  

Saturday morning I awoke to nearly two feet of snow blanketing the streets.  Leafing through my Williams Sonoma: Baking book, I took on the bread recipe that involved the longest rises.  What else was I going to do?  Run a mile or something?  (HA HA HA.  You know I don't RUN.  Unless I am being chased by a bear or a cyborg.  But not for FUN.)
Two loaves of beer bread, I got caraway-d away with one.  Get it?  There are caraway seeds.  Sorry.  You're sadly nodding if you've already met my father.  Next time you see him ask him what he calls a guy with no arms and no legs hanging on the wall.

Scandinavian Beer Bread is the perfect snow day recipe.  You probably have all of the ingredients in your fridge already - what, you don't have a can of dark stout beer?  Any dark beer will do.  And you get to drink the rest of it while you wait.  It says so right in the recipe.  The beer adds a deep flavor to the bread, taking it above and beyond a typical rye loaf.  In fact, I'd even substitute more whole wheat flour next time to really give it an earthy sweetness.  This bread is best right out of the oven, even better with a good hearty schmear of butter.

I put together a quick herb butter with some chives, thyme, salt and pepper, because I was bored and because I freaking LOVE butter.  Don't be afraid of adding herbs or other spices to butter - just get it to room temperature, chop up whatever you have on hand, and mix it together using a fork.  When everything's combined, get out a piece of plastic wrap.  Put the herb butter in the middle of the plastic wrap and roll it into a log.  Then put that baby in the fridge.  Unwrap it when company comes over and holy hannah they'd think you are the second coming of Martha.

When the snow continued its assault on the region, leaving me - and hundreds of thousands of other good little federal worker bees - at home for the past, oh, nine hundred days, I got busy with other recipes.  In order to stretch out my blog posts, stay tuned for a Very Detailed Post On How C Fierce Conquered Brioche And It Only Took Eight Hours But What Else Can You Do WHEN IT'S SNOWED EIGHT HUNDRED FEET IN THE PAST FOUR HOURS.  AND YOU CAN'T GET YOUR PHOTOS UPLOADED BECAUSE THE CORD IS AT YOUR OFFICE and so I'm really sorry about that.
Anyway - Happy Snow Day/Week/February.  Stay warm and bake bread!

Scandinavian Beer Bread
from Williams Sonoma: Baking

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 cup dark beer, warmed to 110 F
1 tsp salt
2 cups rye flour
3 - 3 1/3 cups unbleached bread flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark corn syrup (and before you get all mean on me, anti-corn syrup people, please, this makes two loaves of bread, 18-20 slices each, so a quarter cup of evil dark corn syrup means about a sniff in each loaf so get over it. end rant.)
1 egg white, well beaten

In a large bowl (in the bowl of your stand mixer is best), dissolve the yeast into the lukewarm water and let stand until bubbles start to rise, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the beer, rye flour, and one cup of the bread flour.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour. 

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the corn syrup and let cool to lukewarm (110 F), then add to the flour mixture.  Gradually store in 1 1.2 cups more bread flour to make a stiff but workable dough.  Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Knead by hand or with a dough hook, adding bread flour as needed.  Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes; knead by hook until the dough is not sticky and pulls cleanly from the bowl sides, about 10 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean, greased bowl, turning to coat all sides.  Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 60-70 minutes.  (My "warm place" when baking bread involves turning on the oven to 200 F, shutting every door and window, and letting the dough rise in a bowl covered loosely with greased plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel over it, sitting on top of the now-warmed stove.  Every house is different so just figure out where it works best in yours.)

Dust a baking sheet with flour.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and press flat.  Cut in half and form each half into a ball, stretching the sides down and under, then flatten slightly.  Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, 45-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Brush the loaves with the egg white mixture.  Bake until browned and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottoms, 35-40 minutes.  (If you have a teeny oven like me, you will need to rotate the baking sheet halfway through to ensure even browning.)  Wrap in kitchen towels to promote a soft crust and place on a wire rack to cool.

Yield: 2 14-oz loaves

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bittersweet Brownies

I have heard people say, "boxed brownies are just too good and easy-I never make mine from scratch" To them I say, be for real. Brownies are the easiest! If they were any easier they'd be the slice and bake stuff.

After the lazy brownie consumers come the picky ones. They only like brownies or cakey brownies or under baked brownies. I am picky about a lot of things, but not about brownies. I don't care if I have an edge piece or a center (have you seen those edge fudgey pans? They're crazy looking). If there's chocolate, I want it. I want some now and I want some later. I would like some with ice cream on top. I would like some with whipped cream. Or a drizzle of raspberry sauce. I would like some. Yes please. A brownie is about bringing the chocolate. And, to quote that classic film, it has already been broughten. So try this recipe, okay? I promise, its really good.

I should warn you about one thing before you get ready to slice those suckers: no matter how cohesive the brownie looks, no matter how solid or sturdy or cleanly it cuts with a knife, don't try it with your mini-acorn cookie cutter (chosen because it looks the most like a heart of all your cookie cutters. Please tell me what kind of baker am I? I have a set of mini-fall-shapes but not a heart). It will never work. I was kind of hoping I could give you a cute little heart shaped something in anticipation of that pink and red and flowery holiday coming up, but this recipe was not the one for that exercise. Maybe next time I will do a better job planning ahead.

Have I mentioned that this recipe is easy? Just in case, let me be clear: You only get one bowl, one measuring cup, and two measuring spoons dirty (you know, if you use a 1/2 cup one for both sugar and flour). How much more do you want?

2 sticks (8oz) butter, cut into 16 pieces
9 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 Large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour

get ready: oven at 325F, line a 9x13" pan with foil, butter the foil. (I think this is most easily done with melted butter and a pastry brush. You will be so glad you used foil when it comes time to clean up)

Use a double boiler over medium heat, combine the chocolate and butter. Stir occasionally until they are just melted. Don't let them get so hot the butter separates. (I did this step in the microwave, stirring every twenty seconds or so, because I am lazy and it works just fine). Remove from heat.

With a whisk, stir in the sugar. The mixture might get grainy, but it will even out. Whisk in the eggs one by one, then add the vanilla and whisk enthusiastically to smooth the batter. Finally, gently whisk in the espresso powder, salt, and flour, stirring only until incorporated. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the top is dull and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature.

When they've completely cooled, turn them out onto a rack, peel away the foil and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into rectangles and serve.

And I picked this photo so that you could get an up-close look at the texture of the finished product. I can never tell if its cakey or fudgey or whatever. Cake is cakey and fudge is fudgey. A brownie is a brownie.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Butterscotch Pudding

This is the pudding C Fierce would always have on her menu, if she had a menu. I hardly think this blog counts as a menu, but she could certainly argue the point.

Readers, when I introduced C Fierce to you those many (one) moons ago, I mentioned one thing in particular that you should know about her: her love for Jameson. Oh, does she love the Jameson. With a cherry, thank you. Well, I have a new way for her to enjoy it: with milk, sugar, egg yolks, and butter. Sure, it may take a little bit longer (and leave you with a few more dishes to clean up) but I'm guessing she'll have an easier time at work the next morning. Or better yet, sneaking this on her lunch break. (C Fierce Editor's Note: I do not drink Jameson at work. Not that I haven't thought about it before.)

I was on my use-up kick (notice a theme here anyone?). Lots and lots of egg yolks! I made meringues with a friend (and yes, you will hear about them, they were phenomenal) and of course we had no use for those orange things, so they got tupperwared and refrigerated (I checked, those are both verbs) I knew I'd have to act quickly to get them into something else. So I consulted my New Favorite Baking Book: Baking From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan. The book is gorgeous, big and heavy. A book with a little weight to it is a nice thing. It's nice having a heavy, weighted, lovely book, because I am a walking accident. The first recipe in (those beautiful meringues), I spilled all over its pretty pages. Now it opens to that page like a charm (there could be worse things than being reminded of delicious meringues every time you get your book off the shelf). My first cookbook I got in college (Better Homes and Gardens, Thank you Grandma Fierce!) has the front cover burnt off. That happened a year after I got it, in an off campus kitchen with a gas stove. We were making gingerbread men, I think, and I'm not sure why the stove needed to be on ... I may be a kitchen hazard.

Back to the delicious butterscotch pudding. Admittedly, I had to buy a few things for this recipe: milk (yes, I know, but I Never Drink Milk. I am much more likely to have cream in the fridge than milk. In general I think that milk is for babies (if we had more any commenters I'm sure I'd get someone irate over that) and I don't drink much of it, but when I do, its whole milk) and pecans. Now, were the pecans necessary? Not entirely. Could you enjoy this without them? Absolutely. But were they worth it? Of course.
While you're stirring the second round, enjoy the transformation that is a custard. Watch the mixture go from a splashy liquid to something glossy and smooth, so sure of itself. It is not unlike the transformation that happens with those awesome foam-grower things we had when we were kids: they come out of the capsule all teeny tiny and then all of a sudden you have a dinosaur to play with in the tub! Magic! Maybe they aren't exactly the best comparison, but they're both fun to watch. (Another C Fierce Editor's Note: Was J Fierce drinking Jamo straight out of the bottle when she wrote the preceding paragraph? And why wasn't I invited?)

I think you'll enjoy this. Much more than those pudding cup ones that may be on your grocer's shelves (but if you say anything mean about Kozy Shack on these pages your comment will be moderated). Next up on my pudding list: arborio rice pudding.

Butterscotch Pudding
Baking: From My Home to Yours

1/2 C packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp water
1 3/4 C whole milk
1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 C cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp scotch whiskey (Dorie suggests a strong single malt. My philosophy with the addition of liquors to foods is in a case where it complements the dish, you want to use something with dimension and subtly. Not something that will feel, as our uncle puts it, like "the Russian army marching down your throat.")

Whipped cream and buttered, toasted pecans.

Have 6 ramekins/pudding cups at the ready, each with 4-6oz capacity. I had tupperware at the ready because ramekins do not transport quite as easily.

Put the brown sugar and water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, put the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stirring and lowering the heat if necessary, boil for 2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 C milk and the cream and bring to a boil. Don't worry if it curdles. Mine did and it was delicious. Later, of course.

While the milk is heating, put the cornstarch and salt into a food processor and whir to blend. Turn them out onto a piece of wax paper, put the sugar and egg yolks into the processor and blend for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the remaining 1/4 C milk and pulse just to mix, then add the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to blend.

With the machine running, very slowly pour in hot liquid. Process for a few seconds, then pour everything back into the saucepan. Whisk without stopping over medium heat- making sure to get into the edges of the pan-until the pudding thickens and a couple of bubbles burble up to the surface and pop (about 2 min). You don't want the pudding to boil, but you do want it to thicken, so lower the heat if necessary.

Scrape the pudding back into the processor (if there's a scorched spot, avoid it as you scrape) and pulse a couple of times. Add the butter, vanilla, and scotch and pulse until everything is evenly blended.

Pour the pudding into the ramekins. If you are anti-pudding skin, press plastic wrap on the surface. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Pudding will keep 2 days in the fridge.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fettuccine with Broccoli Rabe, Tomatoes and Ricotta

I have been trying to be more conscientious about my food consumption. I won't call it a New Year's Resolution on account of the fact that when I know I'm only going to stick to something for a month or so I'd rather not make myself look bad by initially claiming the entire year. Let's call it a January Resolution if we're going to call it anything at all. I am trying to Use Up Leftovers. I have become aware recently how wasteful I can be. It can be difficult, especially cooking primarily for one, when you halve a recipe and end up with a half a stick of cream cheese, then forget about it before it goes bad.

I'm trying. I have another habit that doesn't help much: When some fruit or vegetable is on sale and I've never tried it, I usually purchase one just to give it a try. Then I'll end up buying three other things to go with it and not use any of them again before they go out of date. This time, it was broccoli rabe. Crunchy, flowery, and leafy: three textures in one! I already had the rest of the ingredients, so this dish was an easy choice. I didn't have to add anything to the "use-up" pile. The rabe is bitter and wintery feeling, blanching it first as this recipe does helps cut back on that. If you can't find any, kale would be a good substitute. I went on a kale kick for most of the fall but I think broccoli rabe is my new thing. What I love about it is the variety in texture. The tomato and garlic add a little bit of sweetness; the ricotta, some creaminess. It was simple and quick, but it feels more complicated, more sophisticated.

The original recipe calls for anchovies, but no thank you from where I sit. If you like them, add them to the second pan with the garlic.

Fettuccine with Broccoli Rabe, Tomatoes and Ricotta adapted from Bon Appetit, September 1998 (In 1998 I certainly wasn't reading Bon Appetit-I was probably at swim practice or painting my little brother's nails. Thank goodness for Epicurious!)

2 bunches broccoli rabe, cut into 1" pieces
12 oz fettuccine
1/2 c olive oil
6 peeled and seeded tomatoes, diced (I used whole canned tomatoes and crushed them as they cooked)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
6 oz ricotta

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add broccoli rabe and cook until stalks are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using 4- to 5-inch-diameter strainer, transfer to large bowl. Return water in pot to boil. Add pasta and boil until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add half of garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes; cook until very soft, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add broccoli rabe; sauté 2 minutes. Add pasta and reserved cooking liquid and toss to heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon pasta onto plates. Spoon tomato mixture around. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.