Even though broccoli rabe sounds like it is related to broccoli, the veggie is actually of the same variety of vegetables as turnips, cabbage, kale and mustard greens. Broccoli rabe is a distinctly flavored leafy green that is very popular in Chinese and Italian cooking, though the vegetable is grown all over the world.
The best time to buy and prepare broccoli rabe is during late fall and early spring. With spring around the corner, start looking for the bright leafy green stalks in your grocery stores and local farmers markets soon. Broccoli rabe does have a very distinct flavor, with a bitter, almost spicy taste; it's important to buy it as fresh as possible to avoid an unpleasant bitterness. Before you make a final judgement on this leafy green's flavor, be sure to cook it first, as cooking will mellow it out.
Before you start cooking your broccoli rabe, rinse it well in water to get rid of any sandy residue. To mellow out some of the veggie's bitterness, blanch the broccoli rabe in salted boiling water for a few minutes then sauté, braise, steam or stir-fry it.
Broccoli rabe can prepared just about any way you prepare other vegetables. Broccoli rabe holds up well to braising, but can become a simple pleasure with a sauté in olive oil sprinkled with salt and red pepper. Broccoli rabe is tasty on its own, but can be deliciously combined with pasta or rice. You can also serve this versatile veggie as a side dish to meat and potatoes.
Broccoli rabe pairs well with Asian flavors like stir-fried noodles, steamed rice, or topped with soy sauce. It also works with Italian flavors when pair with lots of garlic, sausage or pasta and a light olive oil sauce. Simply prepare broccoli rabe as you would your favorite leafy greens, and it will soon become your new favorite green veggie.
One additional bonus of broccoli rabe is its tasty bounty of health benefits. As with most dark leafy greens, it is chock full of vitamins A, C and K as well as potassium, iron and calcium. It also contains phytochemicals that fight cancer and improve your overall health.
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