It's Time to Eat Broccoli Rabe, Flowers and All

Flowering broccoli rabe
Flowering broccoli rabe
Katherine Knowles for the Village Voice

You've eaten broccoli rabe before; it's the svelte, leafy cousin of traditional broccoli. But did you know that when you buy it young and fresh, straight from the market, you can eat the lemon-yellow flowers too?

"Of course," says Neraim of Lani's Farm, bagging up bushels behind her stall at the Union Square Farmers' Market. "They're very pretty, and they taste great."

Look for bunches with a bit of snap and crisp to them, and give a pass to those whose stalks seem flabby or soft. And you're aiming for vivid green stems, popping with blossoms for maximum edible beauty.

Broccoli rabe has a reputation for bitterness, and it can certainly get more astringent the older it gets (flowers are a sign that it's a little older too), so taste it raw and see if you like it. If it's too strong, boil in generously salted water for a few minutes and shock in ice water before sautéing. This miraculously tames most of the bitterness. That said, the skinny stems on the market right now tasted perfect to me.

"Just trim a little bit on the bottom, then sauté in hot olive oil, a little garlic," says Neraim. "Perfect!"

Don't feel like cooking? Check out the spicy rabe with ricotta salata at Mario Batali favorite Otto (1 Fifth Avenue).

How to eat it: (to taste, blanch, refresh, then...)

  • Sauté with garlic and butter
  • Sauté with olive oil and a pinch of red chile
  • Sauté with spicy sausage and a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Roast with lemon segments, then toss into whole-wheat pasta
  • Sauté with plenty of onion, toss into orecchiette and top with ricotta
  • Chop into smaller pieces, toss with uncooked rice, and make up the liquid with white wine and water. Let it cook with the rice. Stir in a handful of pine nuts (pignoli) and raisins



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