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Nourishments: Broccoli, Broccolini, Broccoli Rabe — A Triple Taste Treat

Published: March 14, 2019 at 12:00 am

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There they are — the green trio that can be so perplexing, laid out neatly next to each other in the produce department: broccoli, broccolini, and broccoli rabe. They sound alike, they look alike, but how alike are they?

Nearly everyone — outside of the late George H. Bush, who declared it a nonstarter in his food repertoire — has eaten broccoli in some form. It is a commonplace vegetable, available year around. The thick, firm stalks with tight clusters of florets at the top pop up in recipes from simple side dishes to casseroles to soups and salads.

A little more mysterious is the broccolini. It looks like a slim version of broccoli. Definitely related to broccoli, but not just a younger form of it, broccolini is a hybrid of broccoli and the leafy, very mild Chinese broccoli found in Asian markets. Smaller clusters atop long, slender stems make this milder tasting green a go-to for an elegant side dish.

Then there is broccoli rabe. Or broccoli raab. Or rapini. It has a few aliases, but all come down to the same flavorful vegetable. Thicker stems than broccolini but thinner than the stalks of broccoli, and leafier than either, rabe is actually not a broccoli relative. Surprise! It is categorized in the turnip family, unlike its two look-alikes, which are of the cabbage clan.

What all do have in common is that all are fantastically full of nutrients, and just when the body most needs them — in the colder months — is when these three vegetables are at their flavorful peaks.

Potassium; calcium; folic acid; vitamins A, C, and K — check them all off, along with plenty of fiber. They are rich in antioxidants that protect us from disease and protect vision. You’ll reap the benefits of the green trio with few calories involved, too, unless they are slathered with butter or sauce.

So what was it that President Bush found so offensive about broccoli? Well, the cabbage and turnip families are famous for being a little strong in odor, and some palates find them — especially rabe — to have a bitter taste.

Proper cooking techniques can decrease bitterness, though.

Rabe benefits from a quick blanching before going into a finished dish. Trim the stems, cut them away from the leafy heads, and chop into pieces about 2 to 3 inches in length. Drop the stems into boiling water for five seconds; add the main portion of rabe and cook for another ten seconds. Drain and run immediately under very cold water, or dunk into a bowl of ice water. Drain thoroughly.

Rabe can then be sautéed with garlic, crushed red pepper, and shallots in olive oil and served hot — so simple. A squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt brings out the best in this vegetable.

Are you missing summer’s bounty of basil and pesto? Well, rabe is ready and willing to be a substitute.

Boil or steam a bunch of rabe til tender, drain and rinse under cold water, drain well. Process in food processor with steel blade until smooth, along with two to three cloves of garlic, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ cup chopped parsley, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, ½ teaspoons salt, ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts, and enough extra virgin olive oil to make a smooth sauce. Start with 1/3 cup and work your way up as needed.

Similarly, broccolini likes an easy touch in the kitchen. Trim the ends of the stems, toss with a little olive oil, salt, and balsamic vinegar. Roast in a 425-degree oven for about ten minutes, or grill. Enjoy.

Steamed broccolini makes a pretty addition to a bowl of vegetable soup, with one or two stems adorning the bowl just before serving.

From the mild broccolini to the bold broccoli to the more robustly flavored rabe, choosing any one of these is a nutritional choice you won’t regret.

 

Rabe and Rice Frittata

4 large eggs

¼ C minced red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ C chopped roasted red bell pepper, well-drained

½ C cooked brown rice

1 C chopped, cooked broccoli rabe

¼ C grated parmesan cheese

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp crushed red pepper

1 Tbs minced parsley

Saute onion and garlic in small amount of olive oil until tender.

Whisk eggs with 4 tablespoons water, stir in onions, garlic, peppers, rice, rabe, cheese, and seasonings.

Using a combination of canola oil and unsalted butter, coat an 8-inch oven proof saute pan.

Preheat broiler. Heat greased pan over medium heat. Pour egg mixture into pan and reduce heat to medium low. As edges begin to set, gently push them toward the center, allowing uncooked egg to gather at edges.

Place pan under broiler and broil until top is just turning golden and egg is set.

Remove from oven and serve hot. Makes two to three servings.

 

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