Q: What is rapini? How do you cook it?
- Margo Bienenstein, Grosse Ile, Mich.
A: Rapini is one of those vegetables that is easily overlooked at grocery store produce departments. Also know as broccoli rabe or raab, rapini is a relative of the common broccoli you see most often at stores.
Rapini is a favorite vegetable in Chinese and Italian cuisines and, according to the "Food Lover's Companion" by Sharon Tyler Herbst (Barron's, $14.95), it's related to both the cabbage and turnip families.
While it's a cousin of the common broccoli, rapini is darker green, has a bitter taste and has more leaves, which are edible, around the top buds or florets. Rapini's stalk is slender and not as thick as broccoli. While Rapini's bitter taste can shy people away from it, some sources say that's part of its appeal. Think of its bitterness like that of radicchio. But there are ways to tame that bitterness.
"Leaving the leafy parts of the vegetable intact during cooking (and the florets in particular) reduces the bitterness caused when the vegetable is cut or chewed," according to www.cooksillustrated.com. "Because the heat of cooking then deactivates one of the enzymes that would otherwise cause bitter flavor, the rabe tastes far more mellow."
HOW DO YOU COOK RAPINI?
One way to cook rapini, recommended by Cook's Illustrated, is broiling it. With broiling, their website says, it "develops deep, nutty-sweet caramelization that complements what remains of the rabe's strong flavor."
You can also blanch the rapini, and then saute it in olive oil and garlic and top it with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Rapini also takes well to the grill. Toss with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Put directly on a the grill for a couples minutes per side. Or you can use a grill basket.
ARE THERE HEALTH BENEFITS TO EATING RAPINI?
One of things to like about rapini is that it's a dark leafy green and considered a nutritional all-star. Dark leafy greens provide plenty of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants that many health sources say can help ward off certain diseases.
A June 2018 Tufts University Health and Nutrition Newsletter reported that dark green leafy greens, which are part the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, are one of the diets 0 healthy foods to eat for brain health.
WHAT IS THE MIND DIET?
The MIND diet incorporates strategies from the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diets. MIND recommends eating 10 healthy foods a specific number of times a day or week. The target foods including eating whole grains, green leafy vegetables, berries, fish and legumes.
In one study, researchers at Rush University in Chicago, found that following a MIND diet can reduced the risk of Alzheimer's. The findings were published in 2015 and showed that adhering closely to a MIND diet was associated with 53% less risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Here's a recipe from our archives that combines rapini with shrimp and asparagus.
PASTA WITH SHRIMP, ASPARAGUS IN A LEMON SAUCE
Serves: 4 generously / Preparation time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
The high amount of calories and fat is because of the olive oil and cheese. You can adjust the amount of oil, cheese, shrimp and pasta or serving size.
Kosher salt to taste
1 pound dried linguine
2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste, optional
1 pound cooked shrimp, 36 count size (thawed if frozen)
1 pound fresh asparagus, washed, stem removed, roughly chopped
1 bunch rapini (also called broccoli rabe or raab)
Chopped parsley and shredded Parmesan for garnish, optional
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season it with kosher salt. Stir in the linguine, and bring water back to a boil.
Meanwhile, mix the Parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper. Season with salt if desired. Set lemon sauce aside.
About 2 minutes before the pasta is done, add the shrimp, asparagus and rapini to the pasta. Continue cooking until the asparagus is just crisp tender, the shrimp is heated through and the rapini is just about wilted.
Remove 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and drain the rest. Do not rinse.
Return all the pasta ingredients to the pot you cooked it in. Stir in the lemon sauce and heat through. If the sauce seems like not enough, thin it a little with the reserved cooking water. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl, and garnish with parsley and additional cheese if you like.
From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
996 calories (41% from fat), 45 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 95 g carbohydrate, 50 g protein, 575 mg sodium, 234 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber.
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