Broccoli raab

Broccoli raab greensBroccoli raab (rabe): Rapini, contrary to what people think, is part of the turnip family and not related to broccoli at all. This plant is a member of the tribe Brassiceae, of the Brassicacea (mustard family). Rapini is classified scientifically as Brassica rapa subspecies rapa.

The edible parts of this plant are the buds, stems and leaves. Younger leaves resemble the leaves of turnip greens and are mustardy in flavor. The buds resemble those of broccoli but they do not form a large head, and the stems are thinner and longer than that of traditional broccoli. The stem are usually tender, depending on the age of the rapini. If you come across tough stems, they can be trimmed up to where the leaves begin.

Rapini is extremely popular in Italy, Hong Kong, and China. It originated in the Mediterranean, but today you can find rapini growing in New Jersey, California, Arizona and Quebec. Its popularity is slowly but surely making its way throughout the U.S.

Its peak season is fall to spring but it is available all year long. Rapini contains vitamins A, C, and K; calcium, iron, and potassium; and lutein, an antioxidant that protects the retinas of our eyes. Rapini is also said to slow aging, give you stronger bones, protect against Alzheimer's and birth defects, decrease risk of hypertension, and lessen inflammation. Rapini has amazingly many health benefits--more then I ever realized.

I blanche mine in sea-salted water for a few minutes, then I sauté in avocado oil, grass-fed butter and tons of organic garlic. There is no need to peel: The stems, leaves and flower heads are all edible. To keep rapini fresh and crisp, store in a plastic bag or wrap unwashed in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. –Kimberly Alfaro