Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rapini with Garlic Scapes

Rapini with garlic scapes and cloves of garlic

In keeping with my garden theme, I've decided to post a recipe using my fresh garden rapini. Rapini, also known as broccoli raab, is part of the brassicaceae, or mustard family. It has a delicate broccoli flavour, with small florettes, and leaves that are similar to kale. The entire plant is edible, including its flowers.

Rapini is a cool-weather crop. This means that when temperatures get very hot, it will bolt and produce tall, skinny stems and flower quickly - this is the plant getting ready to produce seeds. Once the rapini flowers bloom, the plant becomes bitter and tough. You can still eat it, but it will need to be cooked in salted water for a longer period of time than usual. This summer has been hot, and I was lucky enough to get my rapini planted in the spring, before the weather got too hot. Because of this, it grew into quite a substantial crop and I got a nice harvest out of it. However, because of the high heat over the past month or so, it has started to bolt. 

My garden rapini, in the early summer

If you find your rapini bolting, trim the skinny, flowered stems. When the temperatures become hot, check your rapini every day for flowering buds, they produce very quickly. If you notice any buds that begin to flower, pinch them off.  Don't throw them away! You can add these raw buds, as well as the bolting stems, to salads, if tender enough.

Harvest rapini when it forms buds, but before they flower. You can cut the leaves at any time. I read on Canadian Gardening that each leaf node (where the leaves grow out of the stem ) will produce another bud. To harvest your plants while still leaving enough of the plant to grow into a second crop, cut stems approximately10-15 centimeters (about 4-6 inches) above the bottom, coarse leaves.

I was lucky enough to harvest my rapini while it was still young and very tender. I was actually able to eat a raw leaf, and it was delicious - not bitter at all! If you ever have the chance to grow rapini, or purchase fresh rapini at a farmer's market, jump on it. Freshness makes all the difference when it comes to rapini.

Garlic scapes are the tips of the garlic plant. They grow into curly, green stems and have a mild garlic taste. You will probably be able to find these at your farmer's market when in season. I keep reading that they are usually in season in early spring, but I was able to find some well into the summer. If you do not have garlic scapes available, you may simply make this recipe with cloves of garlic and it will still taste delicious.

Rapini with garlic scapes and cloves of garlic

Rapini with Garlic Scapes

One bunch of rapini (about two or three good handfulls)
3-4 garlic scapes
3 cloves of garlic (omit if you only want the mild garlic flavour from the garlic scapes)
Olive oil, or oil of your choice
Salt and pepper

If your rapini is not fresh from the garden, or it is bitter, or tough, I suggest coking it in boiling, salted water for at about one minute, or until tender. Drain, and set aside. You can test to see if your rapini is fresh and tender enough by eating a piece of it raw. If you can do this successfully and you enjoy its raw flavour then you do not need to pre-cook it in water and you will simply saute it in the pan. (see directions below)

Roughly chop garlic. Add garlic and a generous amount of oil to a frying pan, preheated on medium/medium-high heat.  Saute until lightly golden. Roughly chop garlic scapes - I prefer pieces about 2.5 cms, approximately 1 inch.  

If the rapini has already been cooked in water: add garlic scapes and saute about one minute. Add rapini, salt, and pepper to your pan. Sautee about another minute.  

If you are adding raw rapini to your pan: add garlic scapes, rapini, salt, and pepper and saute until the thickest pieces of rapini are fork-tender.

Serves about four people as a side-dish

Note: If you have leftovers, they are delicious, even cold! One of my friends is Italian, and her mom makes her sandwiches of leftover rapini. So very delicious!

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