Monday, March 03, 2008

Toto, we're not in NYC anymore

Photo from

This is broccoli rabe, also known as rapini or broccoli di rape. It's an Italian vegetable, bitter, leafy, with flowers that kind of look like broccoli. According to Wikipedia, it's related to turnips. It's an acquired taste, as it is quite bitter; for many years I didn't like it, until I learned the secret: blanch it first.

My sweetie loves broccoli rabe, and it was a staple in our New York diet: easy to cook, readily available year-round, not expensive, healthy. Saute it with garlic and olive oil and you've got a side dish; toss it with some pasta and you've got a quick and easy meal. It goes well with Italian sausage, peppers, chickpeas. When I don't have a lot of creative energy but want a tasty meal with vegetables, I choose broccoli rabe. It is a vegetable I can cook without a recipe.

For my first cooked meal in Seattle, it seemed natural to use some broccoli rabe. Imagine my astonishment, then, when I went to two grocery stores and was unable to find it. In the second grocery store, I even asked the produce guy for it, and he asked a second guy, who asked a third guy, and they all agreed that, not only did they not carry it, they'd never even heard of it. Flabbergasted would not begin to describe it. Broccoli rabe is something you can find in the crappiest grocery store (and there are many crappy grocery stores) in New York. Not having it is almost equivalent to not having spinach.

Have I mentioned there are a lot of Italians in NYC as well as Jews?

One of the fun things about moving to a new place is seeing what is different in the grocery store--in my wanderings looking for broccoli rabe, for example, I saw bok choy, something you can't get in the average store in NYC--but, wow. No broccoli rabe. I learned to love broccoli rabe in NYC, so I honestly cannot say if it was readily available in California. And I'm not saying NYC is so much better because it has broccoli rabe; I'm just...stunned. I had not realized the extent to which broccoli rabe had become my go-to vegetable until I could not go to it.

I bought mustard greens instead. They're bitter, too, but not as yummy, or as substantial, as broccoli rabe. Sigh.


The Beast Mom said...

Maybe Whole Foods has it? I've never bought broc rabe. I just read a recipe for it in some newspaper insert. It mentioned the blanching step. Maybe I'll try it sometime if I can find it!


p.s. Someone left comment on your previous post that leads to some sort of spyware/virus download. Don't click on it.

Nopinkertons said...

Yes, I found it later at Whole Foods, for $4 a bunch (it's about $2.50, maybe $3 in NY)! I balked :-). But I know I will go buy it another day, when I really, really, want it. $4 isn't *that* much to spend on something that will feed both of us....but geez.

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