Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Cleo's Little Italian Lunch - How to Cook Rapini (aka Broccoli Rabe) by Cleo Coyle #Vegetarian

Pictured above is one of my favorite winter lunches: Sesame seed-crusted Italian bread with melted cheese and a generous portion of Rapini, a superb superfood.

Rapini (aka Broccoli Rabe) is popular in Italian cuisine for good reason. As a classic bitter green its pungent edge is a great gastronomic complement for starchy, sweet, and cheesy main dishes like spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, and pizzas. Serve it with mac 'n' cheese or casseroles and you've got a great combination going.

Though this superb supefood has been popular in Italian homes for ages (I grew up eating it), not every cook knows the tricks to getting the best flavor out of its leafy stalks. This post will help you select, cook, and serve Rapini with mouthwatering glee.

May you eat with joy and in good health!

~ Cleo

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A Recipe Note

There are many ways to prepare Rapini. Today's recipe is probably the most common way it's prepared in Italian kitchens. I just love this method, which mellows the bitterness into a nutty, flavorful bite, especially when sautéed with garlic in olive oil and finished with lemon, pepper, and grated Italian cheese. 

BTW - Rapini is an especially fabulous superfood for winter when our bodies need all the help they can get to combat colds, flu, and depression. Packed with vitamins A, B, C, K, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron, it not only boosts the immune system, but also strengthen bones, protect eyesight, and aid digestion. Now let's start cooking...and eating!

Buon Appetito! ~ Cleo


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How I Cook Rapini
(aka Broccoli Rabe)
by Cleo Coyle

Makes 4 servings


1 bunch Rapini/Broccoli Rabe, about 1 pound

2-1/2 quarts water

1 teaspoon sea salt

24 whole cloves of garlic, peeled (about 1-1/2 heads)

4 tablespoons olive oil

Optional finishers:
Lemon slices, Grated Italian Cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmesan), Freshly ground black pepper


Step 1 – How to Select Rapini (Broccoli Rabe): These greens have thick stalks like kale or collard greens and leafy tops with tiny broccoli-like florets among its leaves. My grocer sells it in 1 pound bunches. Do buy it as fresh as possible. Leaves should be bright green and not yellowing, wilted, or flowering. 

Step 2 - Cut off ends: As you would with asparagus, slice off the tough ends of the stalks and toss them. The stem is the most bitter part of the veg, which is why I also peel the remaining stems. It nicely mellows the bitter edge. Although some cooks like to roughly chop the Broccoli Rabe at this point (into 1-inch pieces), I prefer to cook and serve mine whole.

Step 3 - Blanch and shock: Yes, this step sounds like a pair of James Bond villains, but it’s essential if you wish to mellow the bitterness. First boil a pot of water (at least 2-1/2 quarts). Toss in 1 tsp. sea salt. Smash 4 of the garlic cloves and throw into pot. Finally, add your greens and simmer 5 minutes. Strain greens and shock them by running cold tap water over them until they are no longer warm. Drain well and pat dry.

Step 4 - Heat oil and garlic: Place 4 tablespoons of olive oil into a large sauté pan and warm over medium-high heat. Add remaining 20 cloves of garlic-do not slice or smash. (*See more optional flavor ideas below.) Sauté garlic 3 minutes or until fragrant. NOTE: You do not want the garlic to brown. 

*Optional flavor ideas: In Step 4, when you throw in the whole garlic, try adding red pepper flakes for a spicy note of heat. Or add a few anchovies for an umami flavor.

Step 5 - Sauté: Add your greens to the pan. You should hear a slight sizzling (if you do not, turn up the heat a bit). Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring continually to coat the vegetable with the garlic oil. When is it done? Test by biting. The stalks should be slightly crunchy as you bite down but giving easily as you bite. Continue cooking until texture is to your liking.

Step 6 - Serve: To finish, salt to taste. Or try a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of freshly grated Italian cheese Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, and a bit of ground black pepper. Now you are ready to...eat with joy! ~ Cleo

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  1. So blanching is the secret? Good to know.
    And that much garlic should protect me from just about everything, including vampires!

    1. Libby - LOL on the vampires. You can also smash those soft cloves of garlic onto the toasted bread and spread it--perfect for all you garlic bread lovers out there.

      Garlic is indeed a fantastic superfood in itself, helping to combat the common cold among other benefits. Thanks, Libby, as always, for taking the time to stop by the Kitchen. May you have a very...

      Happy New Year!

      ~ Cleo
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      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
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  2. I LOVE BROCCOLI RABE! Yes, I'm shouting -- it's that good! Hoping to grow some this year in the garden.

    1. Leslie - Waving madly. How wonderful that you are planning to grow your own. Can't get any fresher than that. May you have a happy and healthy New Year!

      ~ Cleo

  3. It looks interesting. . . I've never eaten broccoli rabe, much less cooked it!

    1. Pat D - It's a popular vegetable in Italian homes, and I grew up eating and loving it. I'd liken it to the wonderful Southern American "collard greens" tradition. Good eats, for sure!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
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  4. I smiled at the instruction to blanch and shock. Funny how we think off topic with the words. And I am a great lover of garlic, thank goodness my husband is too.

    1. Lil - "Blanch and shock" would make great James Bond villains, wouldn't they? You can easily guess how they'd do away with their victims! And LOL on the marital bliss where garlic is concerned. Good thing my Marc is a garlic eater, too.

      In all seriousness, however, for anyone worried about "garlic breath," Food and Wine magazine suggests three easy solutions. Eat raw apples; drink a bit of lemon juice; or down a cup of green tea -- any of those solutions will neutralize the issue. (No promises on the continued warding off of vampires, however.) :) Thanks for dropping in, Lil, Happy New Year!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter
      Friend or Follow Cleo Coyle on Facebook

  5. I cook this about the same way but never shocked it before . I will have to try that and garlic doesn’t like like my husband so I have to cut way back on that 😂. Always love your receipts. Thank you for sharing 😊