The vegetable that looks like a cartoon fart has captured my heart. • That's right, Mom, I love broccoli. • But my favorite is broccoli rabe, also known as rapini. Aside from the color, it doesn't look much like broccoli; it's actually more closely related to turnips. This green veggie is bold, nutty and bitter, and interesting in a lot of recipes. We're always told to eat more leafy greens, so try subbing out your normal greens (such as spinach or kale) for the rustic rabe. It's loaded with potassium, iron, calcium, dietary fiber and vitamins A, C and K. Big bunches of it often have yellow flowers and are available nearly year-round. Specialty grocery stories such as Fresh Market and Trader Joe's, as well as local markets are likely to have it on hand. It can be roasted, grilled, steamed, braised or simply sauteed. Here are five recipe ideas for this vegetable that you've likely passed over in stores.
Sauteed Broccoli Rabe With Garlic
If you're not sure broccoli rabe is for you, start with something simple. Use this finished recipe on sandwiches, pizzas or as a side at dinner. To make, cut off and discard the tough ends of broccoli rabe (about 2 bunches) and cut the rest of it into 2-inch pieces. Place in a colander and rinse, then drain well. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add 6 sliced cloves of garlic and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 6 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the broccoli to the hot oil. Add ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and cook, covered, over medium to low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally with tongs, until the stalks are tender but still al dente. Add the reserved garlic (sometimes I like to add roasted almonds) and serve hot. Makes 4 to 5 servings. Recipe from Ina Garten, foodnetwork.com.
Broccoli Rabe and Orzo Salad
Now let's add a starch, this time orzo. Oregano, lemon and feta add more zing to our star ingredient. Trim and chop 1 bunch (about 1 pound) of broccoli rabe. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add ½ cup orzo (preferably whole wheat) and cook 3 minutes less than the package directions. Add broccoli rabe; cook 3 minutes more. Drain in a colander and gently press out as much water as possible. Heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, the broccoli rabe and orzo. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, then stir in ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Serves 4. Recipe from Eating Well.
Spicy Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli Rabe
Okay, let's step up our game a little and turn broccoli rabe into a main dish. This recipe is light and easy and offers a new way to use shrimp. Trim the stems off ¾ pound of broccoli rabe. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon chile flakes. In a separate bowl, combine ¾ pound peeled large shrimp, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon orange zest, ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon chile flakes. Spread broccoli rabe and shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around the edges. Serve with orange wedges. Serves 2. Recipe from the New York Times.
Orecchiette With Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Pesto
I'll always eat a vegetable if a carb comes with it. Add sausage, and I'm all in. There are lots of variations on this classic recipe, but I love this one because it turns the broccoli rabe into a pesto that you can use anytime. For the pesto, you're going to roast some garlic first. To do that, slice off the top of a head of garlic to expose some of the cloves inside. Place the head on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in the foil. Roast until cloves are lightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes. Now let's make that pesto. Trim and discard stems from ½ pound broccoli rabe. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a pot and add 1 tablespoon salt. Drop in the broccoli rabe and cook about 5 minutes, until tender. Drain and place in a large bowl of ice water. Drain again and squeeze dry. Turn on a food processor and drop 3 cloves of the roasted garlic in through the tube. Stop machine, scrape down sides and add broccoli rabe. Pulse until finely chopped. Stop machine. Add 6 tablespoons olive oil. Pulse until pesto comes together but is not creamy or thoroughly emulsified. Transfer to a bowl and fold in ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Finely chop 1 to 2 fennel bulbs and 1 to 2 onions (you'll need 1 cup each). Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan on low. Add fennel and onion, and cook until soft but not brown. Add 1 pound sweet Italian sausage (casing removed) and cook, mashing it to a fine crumble, until it is no longer pink. Add 2 cups chicken stock and cook until the stock has mostly evaporated and just glazes the sausage. Transfer sausage mixture to a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Return sausage to the pan. Fold in broccoli rabe pesto. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 1 ¼ pounds orecchiette pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes, keeping ½ cup of the pasta water. Reheat sausage mixture and add the pasta water. Drain pasta and add to pan with the sausage mixture. Toss ingredients together until pasta is evenly coated. Fold in more Parmigiano-Reggiano (about ½ cup), check seasoning and serve. Serves 6. Recipe from the New York Times.
Chickpea and Broccoli Rabe Soup
There is a small window in Florida where I really crave soup, and it's happening right now. This recipe from the great chef Alice Waters is hearty and healthy, and versatile. If you don't like chickpeas, use cannellini beans. Any green works, too, but we're talking about broccoli rabe here, so let's stick with that for now. Waters wants us to cook dried chickpeas for this recipe so we can use the wonderful cooking liquid. But to save time, going with canned beans will work, too: I recommend draining 2 cans of garbanzo beans and cooking them in about 4 cups of simmering vegetable broth for about 10 minutes. You can reserve that liquid for the soup. Let's get started with some prep work. Finely chop 2 slices of pancetta. Peel and dice 1 large carrot (or 2 small ones) and dice 2 stalks of celery and 1 onion. Chop 4 garlic cloves. Trim off and discard the stems from 1 bunch of broccoli rabe, then wash, drain and chop coarsely. Set all that aside and heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil and the pancetta. Cook for 3 minutes and then add the chopped carrots, celery and onion. Drop in 4 sprigs of fresh oregano and a pinch of dried chile flakes (optional). Cook, stirring now and then, until soft and lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Turn down the heat if the vegetables start to brown too quickly. When the vegetables areles are cooked, add a pinch of salt, the garlic and 2 cups cooked chickpeas. Cook for a few minutes and pour in 2 cups chickpea cooking liquid and 2 cups chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe to the soup and cook for another 10 minutes. Test a large rabe stem to see if it's tender and, if necessary, let it cook longer. Add salt to taste and garnish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Makes about 2 quarts. Recipe from "The Art of Simple Food II" by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter).