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Jan 25, 2010 03:38 AM


I made rapini for the first time and was disappointed with the results. How should rapini taste when prepared? I found it to be very bitter, almost inedible. I sauted the bunch, trimmed of the thick bottom stems and large leaves in a little butter, olive oil and kosher salt until tender. My family loves broccoli and I thought they would also like this, but no one could get past the bitterness. Any help would be appreciated!

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  1. No it's not even in the broccoli family and is very very bitter. My husband won't go near it, and I only make it for myself about once a year and I make it in a soup with fennel, sausage and broth and nothing hides the bitterness. Not for everyone.

    I just looked it up and its closest relative is the turnip.

    1 Reply
    1. re: coll

      They are both in the Brassica family. I don't know about botanically speaking, but as far as taste / appearance I'd say broccoli rabe is closer to jie lan (gai lan / Chinese broccoli), the rape plant (you cai), and mustard greens than to either broccoli or turnips.

      Some people are more sensitive to bitter tastes than others (so-called tasters / super-tasters), and developing an appreciation for dark leafy greens can take a little while. As others have said, sometimes broccoli rabe will be spicier / more bitter than other times. Do you like collards, kale, or other greens that are more similar to broccoli rabe?

      Nthing parboiling / blanching them in small batches in heavily salted water (per other suggestions).

      I like it blanched, sliced, then tossed with olive oil, garlic slices, salt, crushed red pepper, and something salty (some people would use sausage or anchovy; I'm vegetarian, so I usually just put in sliced black olives), served over orecchiette or other pasta

      Also delicious sauteed with garlic and oil (like above) with tomato sauce on some sort of hot more-or-less Italian style sandwich.

      To the OP: you could also try broccolini or broccoli sprouts / young broccoli, which are less bitter. Broccolini is a different plant, where broccoli sprouts or young broccoli are actual broccoli. Both are also delicious.

    2. We love rapini or rappe. I trim the stem ends and loosely chiffonade the leaves. Sautee a few cloves of sliced garlic in EVOO, sprinkle in some crushed red pepper flakes, drain a tin of anchovies and add those, finally after a few minutes toss in the rappe. Cover the skillet and cook till the stems and leaves are tender and cooked through but still green. We like this as a side dish, added to soup, tossed with pasta, tossed with beans and pasta....anyway I can think of to use it. Sometimes instead of anchovies I render some diced pancetta and use that for flavor. Somtimes I add a chopped onion...shred a carrot or two....

      1. I have read that Rapini (broccoli rabe) is less bitter during its "in season" months - which I think is now. The best way to reduce bitterness is to cook the broccoli rabe until al dente in a large amount of salted, boiling water. According to CI, the more water you use, the more that you can reduce the bitterness. After boiling, prepare as desired. My standard preparation is to saute in olive oil with some garlic and red pepper flakes.

        5 Replies
        1. re: DMW

          So boil and then dump the water? I want to like broccoli rabe, really I do.

          1. re: coll

            Boil, lift out of the water, and cook pasta (short format) in the same water. Meanwhile sauté the cook veg, coarsely chopped, in olive oil in which you have browned garlic and chile and anchovies. The anchovies will dissolve in the oil if you poke them around with a wooden spoon. While pasta is cooking, add some of the starchy water to the pan with the veg. When the pasta is al dente, add it to the pan, toss for a minute over low heat, and serve.

            1. re: mbfant

              I have to agree 100% with mbfant - very Italian, very delicious, made this many many times to wonderful results. This is one of the few vegetables I'd consider boiling and it takes to it beautifully. We had this in Italy a lot when I was a kid, and very very popular here.

            2. re: coll

              There's no reason to "want" to like rapini if you don't like it. Have something else - regular broccoli, for example - and forget about rapini altogether. It IS bitter - that's what's so great about it - but it's not for everyone. Please don't boil the heck out of the poor thing and then try to serve it. If you boil it long enough to eliminate bitterness, you will also have eliminated most of the flavour and it will be mushy, grey and waterlogged. I usually steam it very briefly - just until wilted, and then saute with garlic, anchovies and hot pepper flakes. And I find that most commercial rapini isn't quite bitter enough these days. But, obviously, that's just me.

              1. re: Nyleve

                "Please don't boil the heck out of the poor thing and then try to serve it. If you boil it long enough to eliminate bitterness, you will also have eliminated most of the flavour and it will be mushy, grey and waterlogged..."

                I'm so glad you said this! My thoughts entirely. Plus, all the nutrients go down the drain...figuratively. I've been cooking rappe for many years and never boiled mother and aunts didn't either. Heck, I don't even steam first. Just sautee as I posted above.

          2. People don't all have the same tolerance for bitterness. I enjoy broccoli rabe's bitter edge. In fact, I think it is much more interesting than broccoli or most other cruciferous vegetables. However, I know people who, like you, find it unbearably bitter. Perhaps it's a genetic trait.

            1. Rapini is my absolute favorite green! Don't give up yet.
              Here's what I do, and it's so simple.
              I trim and chop the rapini to desired size. Then, I place the rapini into the basket of my Oxo salad spinner.
              I bring a tea kettle full of water to a boil, and pour it over my rapini. I put the top on the spinner, and let it blanch for a few minutes. Then, I pull the collander out of the spinner, dump the water and rinse the rapini under cold water to stop the cooking.
              You can reserve the rapini in the fridge until you're ready to prepare it, or use it right away.
              I often do this ahead of time, so as I prep dinner, I just throw the rapini into a saute pan and a little evoo, s&p (or whatever I'm in the mood for), and it's ready in minutes.
              The KEY is that you need to blanch it before you prep it. It cuts down on the bitterness, but maintains the verdant flavor.
              Here's a post I did on this some time ago:

              5 Replies
              1. re: monavano

                Interesting technique, a great use for a salad spinner, aside from the regular uses, of course.
                I also love broccoli rabe but mrbushwick does not love it. I saute it in EVOO with garlic slivers and crushed red pepper, like many other posters, or serve it in pasta and grilled sausages, or in calzones. I don't bother to blanch, just add a few tablespoons of broth or water to the sauteing step.
                Overcooking it is the worst thing to do, I find it doesn't necessarily eliminate the bitter but it will enhance the mushy waterlogged effect, like overcooked broccoli. Garden grown rabe is more bitter than the commercial rabe but it still carries it's bitter tang.

                To cher99: Either you can appreciate the bitter aspect or not. There isn't any cooking method that will eliminate the bitterness without killing the vegetable. Don't beat yourself up if you can't fall in love with it.

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  I use my salad spinner to parcook a lot of vegetables, like green beans for example. It makes the prep so easy when meal time comes around.
                  I started to blanch because Mr. MV isn't as in love with bitter greens as I am.
                  Now, if rabe was only a bit cheaper...

                  1. re: monavano

                    Do you have the stainless spinner? I'm just thinking that the plastic one wouldn't take the heat.

                    1. re: bear

                      I have a large plastic Oxo. No problems with boiling water.

                      1. re: monavano

                        Thanks. So do I. Never would have thought of that!