rapini, brocoli rabe, broccoli rape, brocoletti di rape, brocoletto
This distant cousin of broccoli has slender stalks, toothed, leafy greens topped with small broccoli-like florets. It's native to the Mediterranean (and especially beloved in Italy). It has a distinctively bitter, peppery flavor that can be an acquired taste. The intense, somewhat nutty taste makes raab a distinctive foil for other assertive flavors. Classic Italian partners include garlic, red pepper flakes, anchovies, tangy black olives, sausage, sharp cheeses, and fruity olive oil. For an Asian profile, use garlic, red pepper flakes, and ginger, with splashes of soy sauce and sesame oil or oyster sauce. You can't go wrong with citrus zest and juice. At the other end of the spectrum, bland or starchy foods such as eggs, pasta, potatoes, beans, and grains provide a neutral canvas for broccoli raab's punch.
One pound yields four servings as a side dish.
When buying, look for deep, bright-green color, crisp stems, and fresh leaves, with no sign of wilting or yellowing.
Rinse a bunch of raab by dunking and swishing in cold water and then shake off the excess moisture. Trim about 1/2 inch off the stems, or more if they seem tough. Discard any loose leaves, especially those from the outside of the bunch that look battered. Broccoli raab cooks quickly; it gets tender in about three minutes. Steaming, sautéing, braising, and stir-frying are all good ways to cook broccoli raab. If you want to cut some of the bitterness, blanch it first in salted boiling water for a minute or two, then drain and refresh under cold water. This step can be done well ahead of cooking the final dish, and from this point the vegetable requires only a few minutes of steaming, boiling, or sautéing.
Store unwashed bunches of broccoli raab in the crisper drawer for up to a few days.