I chopped up some whole rapini (minus the bottom half of the stems), blanched it, sauteed it, and it tasted bitter. If anything I over seasoned it and it will still bitter.
Rapini, do you eat the leaves?
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Actually, I'm also not crazy about too much bitterness (I don;t like chicory) but i do love rapini.
I think the rapini I've tried in the states are stronger than those you can buy here, and probably partly due to the soil, maybe the particular type, but probably mostly because they're harvested too late. The stems should be the thickness of pencils, not thicker, and the tops should be mainly like dense buds, not open and loose - they're about 1/2 inch across - maybe bigger, but still tight. The leaves shouldn't have really vibrous parts that don't cook easily. So if you do decide to give them another try, wait till you find them that look tender and less mature. (Here they are a winter vegetable, can;t find them in the summer).
The fact that you ask if you eat the leaves tells me they must be too mature, because rapini are almost all leaves, like spinach, but with little buds in the middle - if they've grown further, the buds become predominant, and then they would, i think, become more bitter.
Then, they take some preparation - you have to peel the stems (a real pain in the neck - here you can buy them by the kilo already peeled and picked through, sometimes already having been washed once to get rid of most of the sand).
People do buy them by the kilo, and a serving is usually half a plate full.
Boil them in plenty of salted water till just tender, (did you undercook them?) drain, then heat olive oil and some sliced garlic and if you like, hot pepper flakes. Let the garlic begin to soften very slowly, then add the rapini and sautee till all of them are well seasoned.
Of course, you still might not like them.
I came from not liking any bitterness, to liking a little - stewed belgian endive, for example. Rapini, i would say, should be about that level of bitterness. If they're stronger, they're probably left too long before harvesting. But you still might not like them, we won't hate you for it. Not everyone likes bitter. (Some people drink coffee black without sugar - now that's bitter, and I'd go without coffee if i had to drink it like that. And lots of americans drink espresso without sugar! eek. - you'd be surprised how much sugar italians usually put in their tiny espresso - 2 heaping teaspoons is not unusual. So, taste is personal, and unless you have an italian mother in law who is cooking rapini almost every day, you can live perfectly well without ever eating them.)
Oh, and also, you don;t eat italian food without bread. Rapini are eaten, like practically everything here except pasta, with bread - pretty much bread in one hand, the fork in the other. That kind of tones down the bitterness.
And one of my favorite suppers is a nice big dish of rapini and some cheese and bread. They go really nicely together, the cheese balancing the rapini and the bread smoothing everything down together.
They were definately not undercooked, I blanched them, then sauteed them for quite a while, I tasted as I was cooking them, and kept cooking as they were bitter.
I'll chalk this up as a bad bunch, and yes, the buds were rather on the large size, same with the stems.
:D I am one of those Americans, I never put sugar in coffee or espresso
keep your eye out for smaller leaves, stems and buds, and see if you find a good one. If not, next time you go to italy, ask for "broccoletti" which is what they're called here, at least in Rome, or in Naples, "friarelli" and probably a hundred other local dialect names.
(Friarelli with sausages are typical and you can get pasta with this, or even pizza, or just as a side dish). In Bari they make orecchiette (pasta) with them, not sure if they call them broccoletti or not there. It's a very typical Bari dish.
"...Hundreds of years ago all our food was much more bitter than it is now, but we've lost our taste for it because our palates have got used to so much sugar and salt from processed foods. The truth is, not only do bitter leaves like dandelion, treviso or radicchio add an extra dimension of flavor to a dish, especially when you offset it with sweetness from something like balsamic vinegar, but they are incredibly good for you as well - especially for cleansing the liver..."
I know JO is no scientist or doctor, but I am very glad I have risen to the opportunity to use bitterness to balance out a meal the same way I use sweet, salty, sour, and spicy flavors.
And there is a kind of "Broccolo romano" which is actually like a light green cauliflower, except pointed and all the flowerets are made of points, and those sub flowerets are made of pointed cones, and so on - a true fractal vegetable. So in Rome if you ask for broccolo, you might get that. And what americans call broccoli are called broccoli siciliani.
Of the "broccoli siciliani" or american broccoli, they come in different forms, and generally here they are small branches with small tops, and more leaves - though they do have the large single-stalk ones like in the states. They're only smaller, but taste the same and i've never heard this having a special name. In the UK i've seen something like it but they have a special name that escapes me now, (sprouting broccoli or something). Now would american immigrants call these broccolini? i have no idea. Or perhaps in some regions they might call them this? don;t know.
Thinking about it, though, "rapini" actually means little turnips, and would technically be turnip greens. (though at home they called broccoletti "rapini"). Anyway, turnips here are the little white sweet ones, though the leaves are a little bitter.
Put the pasta water on and take a large saute pan and brown some Italian sausage out of the casings. Add some chopped garlic, some salt along with some red pepper if you like a jolt. When the sausage is close to done, toss in the chopped rapini.
In the pasta water cook some orrechiette (little ears) that are small flat round pasta. When done, toss in with the rapini and sausage... sprinkle with permeggiano and you're ready to go.
My family hails from Puglia and that's the way we made it.
Oddly enough, growing up I HATED THIS STUFF, but now, nothing tastes better to me. What can I say?
Siduri.. you ready? We make a batch??:D
Had your dish in Bari once, really good.
Don't forget to peel the stems. It's time consuming, i know. But i'm lucky, at the outdoor markets in all the neighborhoods, they always have some already peeled and picked over, just wash and blanch.
Your title question about eating leaves reminds me of a joke.
A Koala Bear went into a kitchen and was talking to the Chef, who mentioned they had just made a new dish and wanted the Koala to taste it and give them his opinion on it.
The Koala ate what was on the plate... and as he turned to go he pulled out a pistol and fired a couple of rounds into a large pot that was close by.
The new kitchen staff stood there in amazement as the Chef took it all in without becoming flustered about what just happened.
One of the newbies stuttered and stammered out the question: "Wha.. Wha.. What's going on Chef"?
The Chef turned and replied: "Oh, he does that all the time. In fact, if you look up the definition of Koala Bear and what the do when hungry it states...
You ready for this now...
"He Eats........... Shoots......... and Leaves!
La Cuisiniér Diabétique
Absolutely. The leaves are considered part of the vegetable. I eat the stems too, all but the last 1/4" of the bottom which I trim off. I chop the stems into about 1/2" pieces and place them in the bottom of the steamer or the bottom of a sauté pan (depending on method used that day). They get the most direct heat that way and become tender. TONS of garlic. Delish.