Star Ingredient

Star Ingredient of the Week: Broccoli Rabe

Back in April we talked about a type of Raab…for May we’re turning our attention to Broccoli Rabe, this week’s Star Ingredient!  Similar names but different…and even better, Broccoli Rabe is not even broccoli!  Confused?  Don’t be…I’ll clear things up for you in this post.

So What Exactly Is Broccoli Rabe??

Let’s call it by its original name, rapini.  It’s in our favorite family, the Brassicaceae!  While it’s a cousin of the common broccoli, broccoli rabe (or rapini) is actually more related to a turnip.  Sure, it gets buds that somewhat resemble broccoli but they do not form a large head.  Also, remember, turnips & beets were first grown for their greens, not their roots (that came later on) so it’s like rapini never got cultivated into a root veggie.  Maybe because the Mediterranean cultures just got hooked on its nutty, bitter and pungent flavor so they didn’t take it further…who knows!?  

Did You Say The Flavor Is Bitter?

We sure did but don’t get alarmed.  That sharp bitterness is actually quite the redeeming quality.  It is wonderful for cutting through heavier sauces and proteins so it pairs PERFECTLY with rich meats plus it will make fatty, luxurious dishes even more delicious and complex…but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  We still need to cover how nutritious it is and how to take care of it.

Yes…Tell Us How Good Broccoli Rabe Is For Us!

Broccoli Rabe is considered a nutritional all-star.  It’s a dark leafy green which, like all dark leafy greens, provide plenty of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants that can help ward off certain diseases.  There are even reports that they’re one of the foods to eat for brain health!  Broccoli rabe is LOADED with Vitamins A, C & K and is also a good source of potassium, calcium and iron.  Oh…one more bonus…since broccoli rabe is filled with water and fiber, it can aid in digestion and keep you feeling fuller longer to help support healthy weight loss.  How cool is that?!?!

How To Take Care Of This Veggie Star!

The best way to clean a leafy green like rabe is to give it a cold-water bath.  You can wash the greens under cold, running water but submerging them is a safer bet for getting out all the dirt and grit.  After swishing them around in the water, let the broccoli rabe soak for a couple of minutes.  The greens will float to the top and the dirt will drift to the bottom.  Empty the water (and dirt) and give them another rinse then let them dry.  Once dry, use right away.

If you plan on storing your broccoli rabe in the fridge…do not wash it!  Keep it in a loose plastic bag or container in the crisper.  Usually, you can keep it for 3 – 5 days.

Let’s Get Cooking!

There are sooo many ways to enjoy broccoli rabe.  If you’re eating it just by itself, blanch it in boiling salted water (to help tame the bitterness a bit) and then grill or sauté with some olive oil, garlic and lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar).  The acid in the lemon juice/vinegar will also help mellow the bitterness.  But why stop there?  You can chop it up and add it to meaty soups and stews, put it on pizza, toss it with pasta or…one of my FAVORITE dishes…top off a sausage sandwich with it along with mushrooms & onions.  Go to any Italian Food Festival and you’ll see broccoli rabe prepared that way…which was the inspiration for one of Chef Diana’s recipes this week so definitely check it out!

-Johnny Kat