Broccoli Rapini is a leafy green vegetable that goes by many names: broccoli raab, raab, rapa, rappi, rappone, fall and spring raab, turnip broccoli, taitcat, Italian or Chinese broccoli, broccoli rape, broccoli de rabe, broccoletto, broccoli di foglia, cime de rape, Italian turnip, and turnip broccoli. Following the logic that humans name and rename what is most important to us, rapini would seem to be one of the most important vegetables in the garden. Yet rapini is just gaining popularity here in the U.S., where its status falls far short of the vegetal stardom it has achieved in both China and Italy. Indigenous to both countries, rapini is actually descended from a wild herb, and is hearty enough to grow in profusion year-round throughout the continental U.S.
Broccoli rapini is not, as the name suggests, a smaller, cuter form of broccoli. Its leaves are abundant and spiky, and surround tiny broccoli-like blossoms. The blossoms, leaves, and stalks are all edible and share the same strength and bitterness of flavor, making rapini a choice counterpart to soothingly mild foods, like polenta and our semolina orecchiette. Besides its significant nutritional value (rapini provides plenty of potassium, vitamin A, calcium, iron), rapini is an exceedingly simple vegetable to prepare. On each head of raabe, the stalks tend to grow to an equal thickness, making even cooking easy to achieve. The classic Italian preparation is braised in extra-virgin olive oil, and flavored with garlic, anchovies, and bread crumbs, or simply sauteed in oil with garlic, salt and pepper.