Also called broccoli raab, rapini, or Italian broccoli, broccoli rabe is much loved for its long, slender stalks; abundant, tender, frilled leaves; and distinctive flower buds that resemble small florets of broccoli. Closely related to mustard, broccoli rabe has
a mild, pleasantly bitter taste with overtones of sweet mustard.
At its best in autumn and winter, broccoli rabe is popular in Italian cooking, where it may be sautéed in olive oil and garlic as an accompaniment to meat or as the basis of a pasta sauce. Similarly, in Asia, it is a favorite vegetable for stir-frying with garlic or ginger. It is excellent cooked and chilled in salads or used to top pizzas or bruschetta.
Choose broccoli rabe with bright green florets and leaves and yellow flowers that are just beginning to open. Avoid if the florets are wilted, browned or fully bloomed. The stalks should be firm and can be slightly flexible.
Store broccoli rabe in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Trim away the ends of the stems and any wilted leaves. If any of the stems are particularly thick or tough, they can be peeled with a vegetable peeler. To reduce broccoli rabe’s bitterness, it can be steamed, braised in a small amount of water, or blanched before serving or cooking further.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by Tasha DeSerio & Jodi Liano (Weldon Owen, 2010).
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