I stopped by Nash’s Organic Produce stand a few days ago, and thought I saw some rapini, a vegetable I discovered in Italy, and have sprouting in my own garden as I write this. It is also called broccoli rabe or raab, and a few other names too.
But no. It was not broccoli rabe, but cabbage rabe that I saw, and another display of kale rabe. I took home a couple of bunches of cabbage rabe, and with one bunch made a yummy mess of greens for a side dish. Very simply, it was sautéed in olive oil, with some minced garlic. Salt and pepper as you like.
The second bunch worked well sauteed with some chopped bacon and onion, a little olive oil, as a topping for some pasta. I would have tossed on some pine nuts if I had some on hand. A sprinkling of parmesan worked well with the flavors.
But back to rapini. Like broccoli, it is part of the Brassica genus, and though it is often called “broccoli rabe”, it is more closely related to turnips and mustard, and does not form heads.
Some people find the bitterness of rapini too strong. It tends to be milder when younger, just as its cousin arugula, which can be very bitter if picked late in the season. Rapini can be boiled or steamed to reduce the bitterness, but some of the nutrients will be lost.
A variety of recipes for rapini can be found online, so check out your farmers’ market or supermarket, and give your palate a little trip to Italy!