I don’t usually highlight a side dish over the entrée, but I’m making an exception in this case. We’re talking Broccoli Raab (rabe or rapini) which has many spiked leaves that surround clusters of green buds that resemble small heads of broccoli. The flavor of raab has been described as nutty, bitter, and pungent. It’s particularly popular in Italian cuisine, and best when sautéed or blanched to soften the stalks and leaves and alleviate the harshness.
What is the difference between broccoli, broccoli raab (above top), broccolini (above bottom), and chinese broccoli? Despite their similar names, what sets these winter veggies apart is the plant family they belong to. While broccoli, broccolini, and Chinese broccoli are closely related to cabbage, interestingly, the closest kin to broccoli raab is turnips. (A few of the many other names are rapa, rapine, rappi, rappone, turnip broccoli, taitcat, Italian or Chinese broccoli, broccoli rape, broccoli de rabe, Italian turnip, and turnip broccoli.)
The stems are generally uniform in size (hence cook evenly) and need not be peeled. This vegetable is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium. Rapini is available all year long, but its peak season is from fall to spring. To maintain crispness, refrigerate, unwashed, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag or wrap for up to 3 days.
Now about that recipe. Sautéed Broccoli Raab with Chile, Garlic and Lemon was part-and-parcel of our weekly “Make It Tonight” series from Fine Cooking. The assertive flavors and bright-green color of this side make it a perfect pairing for chicken or salmon (see our recipe below). It also goes well with starchy dishes like risotto and pasta. Some people delight in broccoli raab’s full, undiluted flavor; but we find that blanching tempers the bitter note to a more pleasing level and allows other flavors to have their say.
But what I didn’t notice in my haste at the supermarket was that I grabbed broccolini, not the raab! It has a similar look with small florets, long stalks, and a few small leaves (not the abundance of leaves in raab) — all of which are edible. Compared to the bitter flavor of regular broccoli, broccolini is milder, with a sweet, earthy taste.
Oh well, in the end, the side was delicious. Now you can go ahead and make it with either broccolini and/or raab…
- 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbs. minced garlic (2 to 3 large cloves)
- Scant 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (I of course used more)
- Finely grated zest of half a lemon; plus fresh lemon juice to taste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb. broccoli raab, rinsed, trimmed, and blanched
NOTE: To blanch, drop trimmed (but uncut) broccoli raab into boiling salted water. After two minutes (even if the water hasn’t returned to a boil), drain and refresh under cold water.
- Put the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and starts to sizzle slightly, about 3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low if the garlic starts to brown. Stir in the lemon zest, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper.
- Raise the heat to medium high and add the broccoli raab, turning to thoroughly coat in the oil and spices. Turn frequently, until it is heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, sprinkle lemon juice over the broccoli raab, toss again, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
The broccolini turns a vibrant green after blanching and cooling under cold water.
Cook the seasonings in oil for a few minutes before adding the greens.
The vegetable gets all happy in the lemon, garlic, and red pepper flake mixture. You can make is as hot—or not—as you like by adjusting the amount of pepper flakes.
Broccoli Raab recipe by Ruth Lively from Fine Cooking
Pan-Seared Arctic Char with Olives and Potatoes
Looking for a fish you can feel good about eating? Arctic char is a fast-reproducing fish that is a good, sustainable alternative to Atlantic salmon, which it resembles in flavor and texture.
However, when I went food shopping for this meal, the Artcic Char looked like it had seen better days. So I opted for salmon fillets, which being thicker, took a few minutes longer to cook through. The Broccoli Raab (OK, Broccolini) paired wonderfully with the fish dish!
- 4 small red potatoes (about 3/4 lb.), sliced 1/4 inch thick
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 skin-on arctic char fillets (about 5 oz. each), scaled
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, each about 3 inches long
- 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
- 3 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
- 4 lemon wedges
Bring the potatoes to a boil in enough salted water to cover them by 1 inch.
Sear the fillets skin side down in a hot skillet for several minutes.
Turn the fish over to finish cooking on the other side.
Remove the cooked fillets to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm while the potatoes finish cooking.
- In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the potatoes to a boil in enough salted water to cover them by 1 inch. Reduce the heat to a brisk simmer and cook until tender but not falling apart, about 5 minutes. Drain. Set aside.
- Pat the fish dry and season with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Arrange the fish skin side down in the pan so the fillets fit without touching.
- Cook undisturbed for 3 minutes. Flip the fillets and cook until the fish is cooked through, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. With a slotted spatula, transfer the fish to a serving platter or plates.
- Add the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. oil to the pan and heat until shimmering. Add the potatoes and rosemary and cook, flipping occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the olives, parsley, balsamic, and a pinch of salt and pepper and stir gently to heat. Arrange the potato mixture around the fish. Serve garnished with the lemon wedges.
by Jay Weinstein from Fine Cooking
After the potatoes are returned and cooked in the pan for several minutes, add the olives, parsley, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper and stir gently to heat.
Spoon the potato mixture on your plate and arrange the char (or salmon) on top followed by a generous portion of the broccoli raab.