Broccoli raab is a trendy, tasty green that is taking menus by storm. Some of its many names are broccoli di rapa, broccoletti de rape, rape and rapini. The only similarity to broccoli, however, is the small buds on top. It is a member of the turnip family and has a rich green color and slightly bitter taste. The green leaves, buds and stems are edible. It is an integral part of Italian cuisine, and although its flavor is complex, it is intriguing and balanced.
Seasonality and Health Benefits
Broccoli raab is a cool-season crop. The ideal time to cultivate it is in fall or early spring, and it needs to be gathered before the florets open. It’s possible to have numerous cuttings from a plant, if it is harvested while the weather is cool.
Broccoli raab has vitamins A, B, C and K, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. This wonder-vegetable is also believed to have cancer-fighting properties and lower the risk of heart disease, as well as to detox and help heal.
When buying broccoli raab, look for moist stems and dark-green leaves. Younger broccoli raab has broccoli-like buds, which should be tightly closed and green. Do not buy if it is wilted, has yellowish leaves, open buds, or brown or curled stems. Store it in the refrigerator wrapped in wet paper towel and plastic wrap for up to five days. The vegetable can also be frozen if it is blanched, dried and then cooled before freezing.
Cooking broccoli raab correctly is key. It must be blanched to remove some of the bitterness and the greens wilted to absorb oil and garlic flavor when sauteed. This is a great fall vegetable to use in pasta dishes, serve alongside fried potatoes or, when chopped, top a pizza.
1 head broccoli raab
3-4 T. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
6 qt. pot
Trim thick stems about 2 inches from where leaves start.
Bring heavily salted water to a boil; blanch trimmed broccoli raab for approximately five minutes.
Remove from boiling water; shock in ice water to stop cooking. Place on sheet tray; blot dry.
In heavy skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add chopped garlic; saute until tender (do not brown).
Add broccoli raab; saute until tender. It should remain bright green. Add salt, to taste.
Serve on platter or chop to add to favorite meal.
Broccoli raab is great to cook on a grill after blanching. Just drizzle with olive oil and slightly char.
This is a good vegetable to experiment with. Don’t be afraid to try different ways to incorporate this healthy vegetable into your cooking.
Article by: Cindy Komarinski, CCC, CCE, HAAC, Ph.D., professor/program director, Westmoreland County Community College Center for Culinary Arts and Hospitality, Youngwood, Pennsylvania.
This article was first published in Sizzle: American Culinary Federation’s Quarterly For Students of Cooking, winter 2015 issue.