Broccoli, Broccolini & Broccoli Rabe
These three vegetables look alike, taste and smell
similar and are often used interchangeably in recipes.
As hard as it is to believe, these three vegetables are
not even in the same family. Yet, all three non-related
varieties - being dark leafy greens - provide only 25
no-fat, no-cholesterol, calories per cup, loaded with
Vitamin A and C and iron.
Let's start with one of the
most common and popular (forget George Bush) vegetables in America - broccoli.
In the cauliflower family, brassica oleracea italicais found at good
prices year-round in American groceries. Love it or hate it, broccoli is a
main-stay in American kitchens and is a versatile veggie served steamed, fried
and eaten raw all over the world.
Broccolini is a
pretty hybrid cousin of broccoli - developed in California by the
Company of Yokohama, Japan. Also known as "Asparation", broccolini is a
cross between regular old broccoli and Chinese kale - providing small broccoli
flowerettes with long, slender stalks and deep green leaves. Broccolini is
readily available in most supermarkets in America and is especially popular in
But one of the
most popular vegetables in the world is just becoming popular in US supermarkets
- broccoli rabe (pronounced robb) is very common in China
(especially Hong Kong) and is popular with southern Italian cooks. Appearing
like a very leafy broccolini, broccoli rabe is actually a member of the turnip
family and the stalks, leaves and flowers are edible. Also called rapini
(rah-PEE-nee), this bitter stalk (brassica rabe) has a very pungent
flavor and is best served with a plain pasta or polenta.
Look for bright green stalks with dark leaves. Faded, yellowing leaves should be
avoided. When you get the greens home, the vegetable will keep - wrapped in
plastic - for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
This week my grocer had gorgeous broccoli rabe, so I bought a bunch and cooked
it in a very classic Italian dish.
To use, cut the tough stem ends and wash well to remove any sand/dirt. Discard
any yellow leaves. Put a pot of salted water to boil. Add washed greens to
salted water and blanch until the water returns to a boil, let boil one or two
minutes and strain into a colander.
A classic Italian preparation is to sauté 4-8 cloves (your choice, I used
six) of finely minced garlic in a large skillet in 2 tablespoons of
olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. When the garlic begins to brown,
add one bunch of already-blanched and
drained broccoli rabe and about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons dried chilies
(optional). Sauté the broccoli rabe in the olive oil and butter mixture for
one or two minutes, then toss with one pound of boiled pasta (Bowties or
Orecchiette are traditional). Sprinkle with one cup of freshly grated
Parmagianno-Reggiano cheese, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Pass
additional cheese, if desired. Serve with a nice crusty baguette and a tomato
salad for a satisfying vegetarian meal. Of course, Pinot Grigio is perfect with
You can substitute broccolini (or even broccoli) in this dish, with lovely
Eat your greens!