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Broccoli rabe: Easier to grow & cook

By on April 23, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

Bonnie OrrBy Bonnie Orr

The Brassica family has attitude, and their tastes elicit strong opinions.

You all know someone who either loves or hates Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, or broccoli. All these cousins can have a strong flavor and can be dreadful if improperly cooked.

They all can be eaten raw or cooked by steaming, baking or frying. Please do not boil any of them.

Each can be improved by flashing them with high heat and a bit of oil. This process releases the sulfur taste and smell that many people object to.

So all that said, these veggies are healthy for you, can be cooked in various ways, and they are easy to grow. In fact, in your May garden, the kale and collard greens as well as the broccoli could be ready to harvest.

If your brassica goes to seed, be sure to eat the sweet, yellow flowers in salads.

I like to grow broccoli rabe. This plant creates little stalks with florets (small flower-buds) rather than big flower-bud heads of broccoli.


Even though President Bush didn’t like broccoli, most Americans say it’s their favorite Brassica — it’s a perfect compliment to pasta.

It is easier to keep bug free, ripens earlier in the season and is more versatile. You merely cut whatever amount of little heads that you want for dinner that night, and the plant continues to grow and produce additional sprouts. Like all Brassicas, broccoli rabe flourishes in cool weather in spring, and in the fall and tolerates light frost.

Broccoli rabe is widely grown in Europe, especially in Italy.

This Italian flavored dish is a main dish. The vegetable sauce is served with pasta, and a side of meat can be added for a complete dinner meal. Do not be put off by the anchovies — it is an ingredient that adds depth of taste but does not add a fishy aroma.

No one will ever know if you don’t tell them that anchovy is the ingredient that creates the deep, satisfying taste.

Broccoli stems are cut into small chunks and cooked as well. The larger stems need to be peeled. Rabe stems are always small and tender.

Broccoli Rabe

with Pasta

15 minutes; serves 4

Select a “chunky” pasta such as farfalle, gemelli, anellini, creste de galli or rotelle (Grocery Outlet Store in Wenatchee has the best selection of unusual pasta shapes in the area). The cooked pasta should be about half the size of the broccoli florets.

Boil the pasta until “al dente” — still firm but not starchy inside — and add two tablespoons of butter. This will prevent the pasta from sticking together as well as forming part of the sauce for the completed dish.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 mashed garlic cloves

2 teaspoons mashed anchovies

1 tablespoon capers

1 cup chopped stems

2 cups broccoli or broccoli rabe florets

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons parmesan cheese


While the pasta is cooking in salted water, heat the oil in a large frying pan.

Add the anchovies, garlic and capers. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add the chopped stems and cook for 2 minutes.

Add zest and the florets and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the water, stir scraping up the browned bits in the bottom of the pan.

Drain the pasta and mix it into the frying pan.

Serve on plates and top with parmesan cheese.

Serve with a meat of your choice. I like pork with broccoli.

Chicken Breast with Rice and Broccoli

1 hour; serves 4

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup rice

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 cups broccoli- stems and florets

2 large chicken breasts, boned, skinned and cut in half lengthwise

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

6 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese

4 tablespoons bread crumbs


Brown the onion in the olive oil in an oven-proof pan.

Stir in the rice and cook 2 minutes.

Stir in the chicken stock and lemon juice. Cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the broccoli.

Lay the chicken breast on top of the mixture. Sprinkle with salt/pepper.

Top each breast with a portion of the mustard.

Mix together the bread crumbs and Cheddar cheese.

Sprinkle on top of the breast.

Cover the pan and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees

Serve in early evening — then go for a spring stroll.

Bonnie Orr — the dirt diva — cooks and gardens in East Wenatchee.

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