Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Best Blog Tips

Even though I am part Italian, I only discovered rapini a decade or so ago. Being partial to "bitter greens" (which include arugula, radicchio, mustard and turnip greens, sorrel, young dandelion greens and curly endive), I was attracted by this "new" vegetable when I first saw it in a grocery store. Rapini, which is also called 'broccoli raab" or simply "rabe”, only slightly resembles broccoli. It has tiny bunches of broccoli-like blossoms on long stems in the midst of large spiky leaves.

Unlike common broccoli, which is from the cabbage family, rapini is related to turnip, but it grows in the same way as broccoli, except that it's ready to harvest earlier and can be grown all year round in temperate climates. The flavor is pungent, with a slightly spicy bite, which makes it a great foil for bland ingredients, such as white kidney beans, pasta, rice, polenta (Italian cornmeal) and potatoes. It can take seasonings that have big flavors, such as garlic, spicy vegan sausages and hot peppers. Try using it in lasagne, stuffed savory crepes, ravioli filling, stuffed pasta shells, quiches and soups. I love it so much that I actually crave it sometimes!

Italian cookbooks as far back as the 14th century included rapini recipes. The classic Italian preparation is to braise it in olive oil and flavor it with garlic, anchovies (I use miso instead!) and bread crumbs; or simply sautéed in olive oil with garlic, salt and pepper. The blossoms, leaves and stalks are equally edible and flavorful. Rapini is one of the easiest vegetables to prepare. The stalks tend to grow to an equal thickness, making even cooking a snap.

In supermarkets, rapini comes in bunches of 1 to 1 1/4 pounds. Look for slender, crisp stalks, bright color, fresh-looking leaves and relatively few opened buds. Plan on 3 to 4 servings from each bunch or 2 servings per bunch if you plan to use it as part of a main dish-- with pasta, for example. Store it in zipper-lock bags in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to a week. Because it is usually eaten cooked, you can also blanch it for 2 minutes in boiling water, "shock" it in ice cold water, drain it and freeze it in this semi-cooked state for future use in recipes.

Before cooking, rinse the greens well in plenty of cold water. Trim only the end of the stems and discard them (there is very little waste with rapini!). Cut the rest of the stems, leaves and tops crosswise into 1 to 2-inch lengths. Some cooks like to blanch the rapini before cooking (see paragraph above), to reduce its bitterness, but I don't bother with that unless I want to use the plain, cooked rapini in a recipe. I like that slightly bitter edge!

Rapini is a also nutrition powerhouse, by the way. It is low in calories (only 25 in a cup!) and sodium and has no fat or cholesterol. What it does have is plenty of vitamin A (110% of the Recommended Daily Value), vitamin C (130% of the RDV) and vitamin K, as well as potassium and folic acid. Potassium, along with folic acid, fiber and the bioflavonoids found in the cruciferous vegetables may help prevent the risk of stroke. Rapini also provides iron and calcium and like other cruciferous vegetables, contains nutrients, compounds and antioxidants that appear to have cancer-fighting benefits.

Fortunately, there are many delicious ways to enjoy rapini, and there are several other recipes on this blog:

Mediterranean-Style Bean Stew with Rapini & 
Vegan Sausage

Italian-Style Cannellini (White Kidney Beans) with Rapini (Broccoli Rabe)

Farfalle (bowtie) Pasta & Rapini with Italian Walnut Sauce

Tagliatelle with Rapini, Onion, Chickpeas & Creamy White Bean Flour-Based Vegan Bechamel

Tortino di Patate (Layered Potato Casserole with rapini, onions, vegan Italian sausage,and vegan cheese.)

The following recipe (from my book "World Vegan Feast") is one of those simple Italian-style stick-to your-ribs stews-- delicious with a green salad and crusty bread to soak up the juices.  

Printable Recipe

(From my book “World Vegan Feast”, Vegan Heritage Press)

Serves 6

1/2 pound (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) dried brown lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
2 cups canned tomatoes and juice, chopped
2 cups tasty vegan broth 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 spicy vegan sausages, such as Tofurkey Italian "Sausages" or Field Roast Chipotle "Sausages", sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 to 1 1/4 pounds (1 bunch) rapini (broccoli raab-- see above), tough stems removed, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch lengths 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or marjoram (or 1 1/2 teaspoons, dried) 
1/2 cup vegan parmesan substitute (such as Go Veggie! or Follow Your Heart [EarthIsland in Canada])

Mix the drained lentils, tomatoes (with juice) and broth in a medium pot. (If you are using dried herbs, add them now). Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes.

While the lentils are simmering, heat the olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté them until translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and onions to the lentils.

Brown the sliced sausage slices in the same skillet sprayed with oil from a pump sprayer. Add the sausage to the lentils. Add the sliced rapini and the fresh herbs (if you have not added the dried ones already) to the lentils and cook an additional 5to 7 minutes or until the rapini has wilted.

Serve the stew hot in shallow soup bowls, topped with the vegan parmesan. 

Nutrition Facts

Nutrition (per serving): 342 calories, 66 calories from fat, 7.5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 568.6mg sodium, 748.1mg potassium, 40.3g carbohydrates, 17.8g fiber, 7.4g sugar, 26.9g protein, 9.3 points.