Raab is cheap, green and good: Cooking from box, garden, market
Ok, I'll 'fess up: I've been casing out overgrown kale plants in my neighborhood, considering knocking on doors to offer my services as a volunteer harvester. The kale, the broccoli, the arugula and collards and brussels sprouts that have overwintered are now going splendiferously to seed. And what's shooting up like green and yellow fireworks is delicious. It's called "raab" or "rapini" or "rapa," and this is not the first time I've sung its praises.
Last weekend at the farmer's market, I asked about the price of some bunches of raab at the Viridian Farms booth. It was only the middle of the day but her veggies were already picked-over; the farm focuses on berries and peppers, so April is a quiet month. "Two dollars," she said. The bunches were huge and my eyes lit up. "No, $1, they're looking pretty limp." I handed over two dollars before she negotiated further (heh), and asked what kind of raab it was. "Arugula."
I always thought I didn't like arugula, but I sauteed one bunch up as soon as I arrived home, relegating to the pantry the booty of two bunches of kale raab and one of brussels sprouts raab ("it's only available this time of year!" the farmer said as another customer considered a bunch, critically -- some varieties, like Italian broccoli, produce raab year-round and are very easy to grow in a NW garden).
Unlike most veggies that can be prepared so many ways, I believe there is one best way to eat raab -- unless of course you have a garden, and you should just nibble straight from the stalk; the not-quite-open florets are the best part, along with the tender new leaves. I call it "raab one way" and I've detailed my method here at Culinate. Once you've cooked it, you can eat it straight, or toss into scrambled eggs or a frittata; with raw, chopped garlic or green garlic, white beans or lentils, and olive oil for a warm salad; as a bed for poached or fried eggs, with hollandaise, if you're the sort of person who makes hollandaise sauce; on a homemade pizza (I think a white pizza or pizza formaggi would be perfect); tossed with pasta (strozzapretti or gemelli would be fun, or fusilli), garlic and some sort of good hard cheese or fresh chevre; or with smokey blue cheese and canned roasted peppers or dried tomatoes.
Raab, more than anything, is a simple spring vegetable, full of newness and tender sweetness, a burst of spring, reminiscent of the plant underneath but mellower, brighter, its winsome little sister. You'll fall in love, like me, and chances are your children will too. (Everett, seeing a pot of sauteed raab on the counter: 'Oooh! Greens!' and makes himself a plate.)