Bitter with a chewy texture, broccoli rabe is more or less an acquired taste.
Broccoli rabe also goes by the name Rapini and as a mustard family member is related to both the cabbage and the turnip. Often whether or not it is palatable depends on how it is prepared. The broccoli rabe that was the inspiration for today’s flavor was sautéed with leeks and a little bit of absinthe. The absinthe and a dash of salt helped decreased the bitter flavor and softened the texture while still keeping it dense and chewy rather than soft and slimy.
Broccoli rabe is a popular vegetable in Italy and is growing slowly more popular in the U.S. and other parts of Europe. The leaves, stems, and small “flower” clusters are the parts eaten. The small clusters actually resemble miniature heads of broccoli, which is where it gets its name. It is definitely a bitter so can be a bit daunting for someone new to its charms, however, once you’ve figured out a few tried and true methods of preparation, it really does add well to mealtime and to your health. My favorite way to prepare broccoli rabe is to simply dice it as small as possible and sauté it. Typically, I use sherry to finish it, which further eliminates bitterness and also brings out the lightly earthy quality making it a great side for game and even starchy root vegetables.
From a health perspective, as a brassicae, broccoli robe is an amazing source of good stuff. High in vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin A, C, and B, as well as magnesium, calcium, and manganese. The micronutrients are plentiful and the phytonutrients are even more plentiful. With chemical compounds that help eliminate systemic inflammation and oxidative stress, as well as, increasing immune function and protecting against bacterial and viral infections. Studies have shown that including broccoli rabe in your diet can help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels and actually helps cellular detox and repair at the DNA level. It could be worth being adventurous and giving it a try.