Broccoli Raab, a popular Italian cooking green also known as Rapini, is related to broccoli and has a bitter, pungent flavor that tends to mellow when it is cooked. It has loosely formed flower heads that look like miniature broccoli crowns. Broccoli Raab is a cooking green where the whole plant can be used (leaves, flower buds, and stems).
Storage and Handling:
Store bunched Broccoli Raab in a loosely closed plastic bag in your refrigerator for up to a week. It is best used within 2 to 3 days for optimal flavor.
*Farmers tip: I like to take one of the many plastic shopping bags I have under my sink (from the times I foolishly forget my canvas bags at home) and put the Broccoli Raab in leaf-end first. Then I wrap the handles around the bottom of the stems. This will keep the leaves crisp and fresh and expose just the end of the stems, which you trim off before cooking anyways!
Give your broccoli raab a quick rinse/dunk in cold water to remove any grit before cooking. Trim off the bottom few inches of the stem and remove any tattered leaves.
Broccoli Raab is best when sautéed with garlic (lots of garlic if you dare!) and added to pasta dishes, polenta, served as a side, added to a sandwich or on a crostini, with potatoes, and it makes a great pizza topping!
Broccoli Raab pairs well with garlic, crushed red pepper, lemon, beans (garbanzo, white, and butter), chicken, pine nuts, olive oil, black olives, anchovies, eggs, sausage, and hard Italian Cheeses such as Parmesan and Romano.
Broccoli Raab is also popular in Asian cooking as well. Try it with toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds, ginger, tamari or soy sauce and red chili flakes.
Broccoli Raab can be bitter; this bitter flavor will mellow as it cooks. To ensure this you can blanch your broccoli raab by par boiling before adding it to your dish. To do this, boil a large pot of water. Once boiling, add the trimmed and clean broccoli raab whole and cook for 2 minutes. Then rinse the broccoli raab under cold water to stop the cooking process. It is now ready to chop as you would like and add it to your dish.
If you choose not to blanch it first, I recommend separating the leaves and stems as best as you can. The stems will take longer to cook so I like to add them to my dish first and then add the greens and little broccoli florets right at the end so they are still nice and vibrant green.