Broccoli Rabe - Embracing the Bitter

[Posted by Ruth]

Broccoli Rabe, also known as Rapini, Broccoletti and by several other names, is not actually related to Broccoli at all.  While its tops and yellow flowers somewhat resemble broccoli, it is a decedent of a wild herb and more closely related to turnips.  A lot of recipes online call for blanching it first in an effort to tame its bitterness, but this seems counterproductive to me.  Why not use the bitterness and add flavors that compliment it?  Maybe its my age showing, but I'm all about embracing the bitterness these days.

Broccoli Rabe with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms.

Property caramelizing the onions makes this dish take a while longer but makes a big difference in flavor.

1 bunch Broccoli Rabe, stems and all, coarsely chopped.  Trim about 1 inch off the bottoms of the stems
(other than this little bit of trimming, you can use the entire plant, flowers and all)
1 large Vidalia Onion, or similarly sweet onion, halved and very thinly sliced
8 oz Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
1 T butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more to add later if needed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups grated Romano or Parmesan Cheese

8 oz Pasta, cooked according to directions.  Cook the pasta after the onions are caramelized.

 Heat the Butter and 1 T of olive oil in a large, heavy pan over medium, low heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized.  Turn heat lower if they begin to brown too fast.  They will take between 40 and 60 minutes to fully caramelize but it's worth the time.  This will add depth and sweetness to the end result.  Its not necessary to ever add sugar to caramelize onions, their own sugars will do it naturally.

When they are caramelized, stir in the mushrooms and cook at a slightly higher temperature until they begin to brown and give off their juices.  Add the Broccoli Rabe, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and a bit more olive oil, if needed.  Cook, stirring, until the Broccoli Rabe has wilted and then cover and cook over low heat for a few minutes until it reaches the consistency you like.  Don't overcook.  Stir in the cooked pasta with about 1/2 cup of its cooking water and then fold in the cheese.  Toss well and serve.