What is Broccoli Rabe?
Maybe you’ve seen the beautifully curling tendrils at the supermarket, lush with deeply verdant leaves and studded with little cruciferous clusters of green blossoms like the more familiar broccoli crowns of weeknight dinners. However, broccoli rabe (pronounced raab) is both uniquely flavorful and distinctly different from the standard that shares its name. Related more closely to turnips than anything else, this underutilized leafy dark green has a reputation for its sharp bitter bite but like all great cooking, bringing out its true delicious qualities is all about balance. When mixed with rich and hearty flavors, this strong and versatile green gets its chance to truly shine.
Is Broccoli Rabe Healthy?
Like many dark and bitter greens like kale and collards, broccoli rabe is very nutrient dense and absolutely packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Not only does this make it a wholesome choice, but it also makes it satisfying and helps keep you feeling full. Health professionals recommend about two cups of dark leafy greens per week for a healthy diet and broccoli rabe is a tasty and versatile way to meet that requirement. While kale often gets a lot of attention as a superfood, broccoli rabe contains many of the properties that make kale such a sought after ingredient and goes beyond the salad for a wide variety of healthy and delicious dishes.
Fortunately, thanks to its well deserved and growing popularity, broccoli rabe is becoming easier to find in regular grocery stores but may sometimes require a trip to the produce section of a health food market. You might also see it labelled by its Italian name, rapini, but it isn’t the same thing as broccolini. It is somewhat seasonal, easiest to find in late fall to early winter and late spring to early summer but can often be seen year round. To pick the freshest broccoli rabe, look for bright and springy leaves without wilting or slime. Stalks should be crisp and the florets that look like tiny broccoli crowns should be densely clustered.
How Should You Cook Broccoli Rabe?
Despite its strong flavor, broccoli rabe is a stunning side dish all by itself when prepared properly and can be made with common pantry ingredients. To make a broccoli rabe that stands alone, start by bringing a large pot of salted water to boil. While you wait, rinse the rabe and trim the ends of the stalks just like you would with asparagus before adding it to the boiling water. The trick in this step is to boil the vegetables briefly and rapidly, a technique known as blanching that helps to remove the bitterness and bring out the true flavor. After only three or four minutes in the pot the broccoli rabe should be tender but crisp, still brightly green and ready to pull out. Tongs are the easiest way to remove your blanched vegetables, but a slotted spoon works in a pinch. Lay them on a clean dish towel to drain while you prepare your sauté. Extra virgin olive oil is a perfect complement to what people sometimes call Italian-style broccoli; heat a couple tablespoons in your sauté pan to a shimmer before adding your thoroughly dried broccoli rabe. Minced garlic and chili flakes are a popular seasoning that can be added after three minutes. Cook another three minutes to really release those flavors then remove from heat and serve. Dressing your finished broccoli rabe with a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of salt and an additional drizzle of olive oil helps to take the edge off any remaining bitterness and elevate the vegetable to a fresh and simply elegant side.
What Should You Serve Broccoli Rabe With?
Like asparagus, collards, kale and other strong greens, broccoli rabe has the power to cut through rich, fatty flavors and bring much needed balance to classic comfort foods. From beloved creamy pasta dishes like alfredo to satisfying protein dense entrees like porkchops, the verdant freshness of broccoli rabe is strong enough to uplift the flavor profile. Dressing the vegetable with an acid such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar also lends a huge advantage and takes meals from rich to luxurious.
What Should You Put Broccoli Rabe In?
Besides being a worthy contender all its own, broccoli rabe is also great for soups, stews, skillets and even sandwiches. A perfect partner with protein, it’s a tasty way to get your daily serving of vegetables and it doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are a few handpicked recipes to get you started cooking with this secret superfood.
Pasta and Sausage Bake With Broccoli Rabe
Simple and comforting, this single-skillet casserole is a classic example of a richly flavored dish that shows off this wonderful ingredient. Full of traditional Italian ingredients and rich flavors like spiced sausage, aged cheese and plenty of garlic, this weeknight worthy recipe. While the instructions recommend a deep cast iron skillet, you can use and large and oven-safe pan for this easy pasta dinner.
Spicy White Bean Stew
Broccoli rabe plays well with big bold flavors, and this hearty stew blends spicy warmth and vibrant acid for a perfect playground. Flexible and filling, this stew recipe just wants to snuggle up under a blanket with a thick slice of crusty rustic bread.
Coppa Panini With Broccoli Rabe Pesto
Get fancy with this elevated twist on a flavorful favorite. Broccoli rabe replaces the basil in the stunning pesto dressing for this unique lunchtime treat. Coppa is a dry cured salami with a strong and decadent flavor profile, the perfect partner for our dark green broccoli rabe.
If you’ve been unfortunate enough to experience broccoli rabe as a bitter and bland mush, we invite you to try again with these helpful tips. And if you’ve never tried this secretly stunning vegetable before, get ready for a familiar flavor profile to become expanded forever. Eat your veggies, and enjoy.
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