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Broccolini gone awry?

In an effort to eat more healthfully, I got two lovely fresh bunches of broccolini (broccoli rabe.) I whooshed it around with olive oil and sliced garlic, tenderly caressed it with salt, and roasted it at 350 for 10-12 minutes, tossing it once. We all found it inedible, and we're people who happily eat swiss chard and spinach, and dutifully eat kale and regular broccoli. Did I do something wrong, or will I just never be a fan?

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  1. I've heard people say that they find it bitter and when cooking, the best way to get rid of that bitterness is to blanch it for a couple minutes then plunge it into an ice bath. You can drain and then roast. I wish I could find it where I live.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cherylptw

      That's how I start out, then I sautee it with lots of sliced or roasted garlic cloves in olive oil, adding some chicken stock and white wine and s and p at the end. I would never roast it, I like it still bright on the stems, just tender leaves and crisp tender stems. Sauterne wine actually works really well with this.

    2. Was it broccolini or broccoli rabe? Broccoli rabe can be bitter but I've never found that with broccolini.

      2 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        I just went and checked the tag. It was broccoli rabe, and it also said rappini -- isn't that what Rapunzel went into the witch's garden to eat?

        1. re: somervilleoldtimer

          Broccoli rabe is on the bitter side and it's one vegetable my kids can't eat because of it. I like it but also like mustard greens and things like that. If you get a chance to try broccolini, that's like a cross between asparagus and broccoli and much more mild. I like it a lot, too.

      2. I love broccoli, spinach, chard, et al, but tough I've tried many times to like it I just find broccoli rabe so bitter as to be inedible. There's plenty of other greens in the world; I'm okay with not liking one.

        1. What did you find inedible about the rabe? As other poster have written bitterness is inherent in this vegetable.

          2 Replies
          1. re: KTinNYC

            It was quite bitter. What I didn't mind was a distinct horseradishy-flavor -- it tasted a lot like horseradish leaves, which I sometimes take a tiny bit of in my garden.
            You know, I'm not a big fan of broccoli either, although I do eat it because it's good for me. I like cauliflower, although not raw, and I love cabbage every possible way, including raw. Maybe I'll try it once again, blanched and then roasted, as Cherylptw suggested above. My guess is that like Emmmily, I just won't be eating this veggie.

            1. re: somervilleoldtimer

              Blanching will take away a little of bitterness but I think you are right when you say you "just won't be eating this veggie." I love the bitterness in broccoli rabe but it's not for every one.

          2. Well, broccolini is *going* to be a bit bitter, so no matter how you cook it that bitterness will always be there.

            Blanching it will reduce some of that bitterness, but it'll still have bitter undertones.

            Also, from your description it doesn't seem like you roasted it long enough or a high enough temp. When I roast broccolini (which is admittedly very rare), I preheat oven to 400F and roast for 20 minutes. The broccolini should be fork tender when done. Undercooking it may have been part of your problem.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Hmmm. YOu may be right. It was not fork tender -- we had to use knives for the stems and it was pretty tough in the mouth.
              Why do you use it so rarely?

              1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                I prefer the bitterness of the brocollini and usually just blanch it quickly, or steam it.

                Roasting it makes it almost a bit too sweet for me, but it's still good nonetheless.

                Try it again and if you still find it offensive, maybe it just isn't for you.


            2. I'm not sure what broccolini are, but here in Rome we have broccoletti, which are pretty close to broccoli rabe, only probably younger and more tender. If you go to a Roman market in the winter, you'll see not only bunches of broccoletti tied around their thick stems but also loose, lovingly trimmed broccoletti, and that is the secret. Unless you do that careful trimming, broccoletti will disappoint. They are naturally somewhat bitter, but not very. They are actually more peppery, and around here bitterness is associated more with chicory (cicoria).
              The trimming involves cutting off the bottom of the stem, peeling a good deal of the rest, and splitting the remaining stem lengthwise. Naturally, any imperfect leaves, etc., are discarded. Having done all that, or bought the broccoletti already trimmed, we boil them, then sauté in olive oil with garlic and red pepper, or just boil and serve with oil and lemon. Or boil pasta in the same water and use the broccoletti to dress the pasta. I certainly wouldn’t roast it, but you can put it (them) in a pan with oil, etc., and a little water, cover and sort of sauté-steam simultaneously, a technique that must have a name, but it escapes me.

              1. The degree of bitterness in broccoli rabe depends on the age of the vegetable; the older, the more bitter. Young broccoli rabe should have a pleasant bitterness but it also depends on individual taste; some love the bitter flavor while others don't like the slightest amount. My favorite way to cook broccoli rabe: follow mbfant instruction of peeling the tough thick stems, etc, lightly saute plenty of sliced garlic in olive oil, add a pinch of hot pepper flake, saute the broccoli rabe until slightly wilted, add a little water and cook over low heat until the vegetable is tender. It should not be crunchy. The long cooking brings out the sweetness and cut some of the bitterness. A little chopped anchovy added is also good. Usually, leafy vegetables are not good roasted whereas regular broccoli and broccolini with their thick stem and firm head are delicious roasted.

                1. I like it blanched and then sauteed briefly in evoo, garlic and red pepper flakes and then braised in water or stock until qutie tender. I thnk I'd find flavors from roasting a little intense.

                  I do like it in soup with sausage, beans and aromatics. The bitterness adds a nice (to me) depth of flavor to the stock.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bear

                    Good point about the roasting intensifying the bitterness.

                    1. re: bear

                      A couple of other thoughts after talking with my sons...generous salt and a little bit of acid in the form of lemon juice or a favorite vinegar also help to balance the bitterness.

                    2. Okay - we're obviously talking about two different vegetables here, broccoli rabe and broccolini. The latter, which is grown extensively here in Southern California, is just a young, long-stemmed sort of broccoli, and when roasted displays little or no bitterness, at least to my taste. I generally braise it, by far the faster method, tossing it first in a mixture of olive oil and some anchovy paste, sautéeing it briefly, and then giving it about fifteen minutes in a closed pot with a splash of white wine. I think the rabe would respond well to a similar treatment, with more liquid and a bit more time, but I'll have to get some and try t.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Will Owen

                        The relationships among the cruciferous vegetables in the genus Brassica can be confusing . As you suspect, broccoli rabe and broccolini are different vegetables. Broccolini is a cross between standard broccoli and another variety, Chinese broccoli. It is not bitter. Broccoli rabe (rapini) is actually more closely related to turnips than to broccoli.

                        1. re: cheesemaestro

                          I was wondering if there was some Chinese in the mix, gai lan or similar. All good stuff, and it makes a splendidly tasty vegetable. But I do actually like strong greens a lot, so I'll keep an eye out for the rapini. Sounds like a braise-with-bacon natural...

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            Garlic and hot pepper would like to be included too.

                        2. re: Will Owen

                          You're right: braising is the way to go. If you like heat, PBSF's suggestion about red chili flake is a good one, and some (or a lot of) garlic is wonderful as well. But it will always be what it is, and that's what some tasters call a little bitter. I don't see it as bitter so much as having a little bite -- but I've long believed bitterness is the most subjective of the tastes. I rarely object to foods that others find to bitter to eat, even when I fully understand their strong flavors. Maybe it's just me.

                        3. I've never roasted it, but here in italian brooklyn there's a lot of broccoli rabe around.

                          If you really dislike the bitterness, try steam-sauteeing it with some chicken broth. I find this easier than blanching and uses fewer pots.

                          Simply saute rabe in olive oil, garlic and pepper flakes and then add some chicken broth (not much), cover, cook til almost tender, uncover and boil away remaining broth.

                          i agree with other posters that rabe should be cooked well. Unlike regular broccoli, crisp-tender does not work for this vegetable.

                          1. I love Chowhound. The discussion is so satisfying and people are so well-informed!

                            1. I'm a little confused. Broccolini, in all of the states I have lived in, is not broccoli rabe. It is a cross between broccoli, and I believe asparagus, and also goes by the name of Aspiration. You cook it just about the same as regular broccoli. The stalks are long and the florets are small, the taste is similar to broccoli.

                              Broccoli rabe, however, has a bitter and peppery undertone to it that takes a little getting used to I hated it as a child, and until I saw someone cook it in a pan with garlic and oil, did I not learn to love it. We rinse a big bunch, shake out only some of the excess water, and add it to a deep saucepan that has had sliced garlic tossed in it long enough to begin to soften, not brown, the garlic. The oil in the pan should not be so hot that the leaves of the broccoli rabe burn, but rather this is on medium heat. We add salt and crushed red pepper, and continue to toss untl the broccoli rabe is wilted. That's it -- done. No roasting. I've never heard of roasting it.

                              The original family recipe, which was the one I didn't like growing up, involves boiling the broccoli rabe before the oil and garlic treatment. It was believed that this made the broccoli rabe "easier to digest", but I think it just made it soggy and tasteless. I've seen cooks BLANCHE the broccoli rabe before wilting it in hot olive oil, but I haven't tried it.

                              Hope this helps.

                                1. My family LOVES broccolini. Typically, I steam it and while it is steaming I saute minced garlic in butter and olive oil with a bit of red pepper flakes. I toss the the broccolini in the butter/oil and finish it with some fresh lemon juices and grated pecorino romano. You can also give it a splash of balsamic vinegar in place of the lemon juice. Add bacon or pancetta too. After all, everything tastes better with bacon.

                                  We've never thought of it as bitter. Oh, and FYI, broccolini is a cross between broccoli and gai lan.

                                  You can also roast it and serve it with a a similiar "sauce" as above.

                                  1. I made some broccolini Indian style with the following recipe. I'll spare you all my tweaks, but it had food processed chili peppers rather than serranos and some grated coconut at the very end as I thought it needed another flavor level.