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In Season: Broccoli Rabe

Everyday Food, May 2011

The Basics
Take a bite of broccoli rabe and you'll see why this member of the cabbage family, popular in Italy, should make more appearances on plates in the United States. Its peppery taste can't be duplicated (though it could be compared with the bitter bite of arugula), and since every part is edible, it's an easy way to add zing to dishes.

Buying and Storing
Depending on where you shop, broccoli rabe may be called broccoletti or rapini. Pick bunches with deep green leaves that have no yellowing or spots. The stems should be thin, firm, and bright green; the cut ends should be smooth, not cracked or stringy. A few tiny yellow buds on the florets are fine, but too many means the broccoli rabe isn't fresh. To store, wrap in paper towels and refrigerate in a perforated plastic bag, up to 5 days.

To Use and Cook
Broccoli rabe needs very little prep; simply trim about 1 inch from the stems before washing. Because the flavor is so assertive, broccoli rabe is best cooked; try it sauteed, steamed, roasted, or braised. Its mustardy bite stands up to acidic ingredients like lemon juice and tomatoes or big flavors like garlic and chiles. It's balanced by the sweet flavor of honey or bell peppers. If you aren't sure your family will like broccoli rabe, test it out as a pizza topper.

A Great Broc Swap
No broccoli rabe around? Use broccolini instead. The vegetable, a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale, has a milder flavor and fewer leaves, but its florets and stems are edible like broccoli rabe's. It works in any of these recipes.

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