Rapini, the overwintered sister of broccoli rabe, is a “get it while you can” delicacy. Depending on the weather it may be available for only a week or two or not at all. So, every spring we suffer through rapini anxiety hoping the weather warms up but not too much. Rapini pops up in the early spring once it starts to warm but “bolts” out of town if the temperature hits around 70 degrees. Bolting occurs when higher temperatures cause the plant to convert energy into growing flowers and seeds instead of leaves.
Overwintering greens is a nifty process of seeding in the fall, then covering up the land all winter until spring harvest. Overwintered root crops are simply left in the dirt until they can be dug up. Cover can be really fancy blankets, or just regular ol’ straw. Overwintered vegetables produce more sugar to keep themselves from freezing to death. The result is that they taste sweeter than their seasonal counterparts. When you taste the rapini and then think “this is amazing!”, you’ll know why.
The secret to cooking broccoli rapini is to boil the greens briefly before sautéing to tenderize the stalks. Some people discard the stalks, but the thicker ones, once peeled, are delicious. To avoid overcooking the delicate buds, cook the stems for a minute first before adding the florets to the pot. After draining, the rapini are finished in the saute pan with olive oil and garlic. This second step when cooking vegetables is called “ripassare,” meaning that the vegetable is passed again in the frying pan. How to cook rapini from the Huffington Post