Broccoli Rabe – a.k.a. Rapini
Sometime ago, I did a post featuring Broccolini and I described it as being something of a cross between Broccoli and the Chinese vegetable, Gai Lan. Broccoli Rabe, also known by the Italian name ‘Rapini’ is somewhat related to Broccoli, and shares some similarity to Gai Lan, but the taste profile is a little different.
Preparing to Use Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)
One of the features of this vegetable is that it doesn’t have the thick skin like it’s cousin, Broccoli. That means there is no need to peel it way before cooking. You will, however, generally want to trim away the slightly woody base of the stem. Typically, this will only involve sacrificing an inch or so.
As with most green vegetables, Broccoli Rabe benefits from being blanched before using in a dish. This will reduce the cooking time required later and preserve the lovely green color for longer. To do this, you just need to plunge the vegetable into boiling salted water for a minute or two, and then quickly cool down in chilled water to stop the cooking.
In practice, because the stems are thicker than the heads and leaves, it is a good idea to hold a bunch stem down in the water briefly before immersing them fully. If you haven’t tried the trick of adding a little Baking Soda to the boiling water, you will find that it instantly brightens the greens and enhances their appearance for later cooking.
Once blanched, you can squeeze excess water out of the vegetable and chill them for later. Prepared this way, they will easily stay fresh and nicely green for four or five days. This is helpful if you wish to prepare more than one meal out of a bunch.
Using Broccoli Rabe or Rapini in Recipes.
Broccoli Rabe is a bit more bitter than regular Broccoli and may not have quite the same appeal for some people. In that sense, I always rather think of this vegetable as being something of a cross between Broccoli and Kale in terms of taste. Still, it benefits from cookery methods used for either of these two and one can always use it finely chopped in a starch vegetable to make it more palatable for green ‘veggie haters’, such as in my Swiss Chard with Fried Rice recipe.
A favorite way for serving these greens for those who like them is simply sauteed, either with butter, or perhaps Olive Oil and garlic, or Olive Oil with just a little Anchovy Paste. The vegetable does, however, lend itself very well to stir-fried dishes.
The above picture shows a variation on the standard Chinese Restaurant favorite of Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce, except using Broccoli Rabe instead. In this instance, I was actually using a home-made Oyster Sauce which also included other seafood, but that is a story for another time. If you would like to try cooking the basic dish, you can follow my Recipe for Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce, and just substitute the vegetable.