About Rapini

February 1, 2010

About Rapini

Rapini [rah-PEE-nee] is a vegetable of many names: a few of them are raab, rapa, rapine, rappi, rappone, taitcat, Italian or Chinese broccoli, broccoli raab, broccoli de rabe, Italian turnip, and turnip broccoli. It is a member of the Brassica genus, which includes mustard greens, cabbage, turnips, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.  This genus is remarkable for containing more important agricultural and horticultural crops than any other genus.  Brassica vegetables are highly regarded for their nutritional value. They provide high amounts of vitamin C and soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties.  Rapini in particular is a source of beta-carotene and vitamins C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, and iron.

It is commonly found in Mediterranean and Chinese cuisines but you are unlikely to find it in a common grocery store in the United States (although it is gaining popularity).  The Chinese cultivars are called hon tsai tai (which we also occasionally get at the Tucson CSA) or choi sum, and they tend to have a milder flavor than their Mediterranean cousins.

Its spiked leaves look like turnip leaves and may surround heads of florets which look similar to small, leggy heads of broccoli. There may be small edible yellow flowers blooming from the florets.

The flavor of rapini is reminiscent to that of broccoli but more pungent and slightly more nutty.  Its flavor is more complex than that of many greens as long as it is not overcooked.  It can be steamed, braised, sautéed, broiled, stir-fried or, even better, oven-roasted.  It pairs beautifully with beans or lentils, pork (try it with Italian sausage!) and chicken, and it works well as a side dish or in pasta dishes and soups.

Here’s an easy way to cook rapini: Cut stalks crosswise into 2-inch pieces and drop them into salted (optional), boiling water.  Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and remove with slotted spoon.  Sauté the blanched rapini in a little olive oil and as much garlic as you like for 3 to 5 minutes until tender. Optional – Add a few dried red pepper flakes.

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