A little help with rapini

Joined Oct 23, 2008
I decided tonight to make a fish (Tilapia Filets) dish for dinner. I figured for pairings.. I'd make a butter, herbed brown rice, and wilted rapini. I've used rapini just once before and from that experience I knew I didn't want to include any stems beyond the base of a leaf.

I did a couple things wrong, one was I over salted it just a bit, but that is easily corrected in the future. I started with olive oil and sweated some diced elephant garlic in. After it was wilted I squeezed some fresh lemon juice in and tossed it. Now.. I probably should have turned off the heat here.. but I was afraid the florets might be tough.

So my question really revolves around the elephant garlic. It ended up caramelizing and with the acidity of the lemon juice, it tasted JUST LIKE sour kraut.. which isn't a flavor I despise but only with the right things :mad: .. I finished the rapini with some lemon zest.

Should I have stuck with normal garlic? Did I just take the elephant garlic too far by caramelizing it? Maybe I squeezed too much lemon.. I used about half of a med sized lemon. I still have 2/3 of the head of rapini left, so I figured I should come ask for any recommendations. I'd be interested in alternative preparations to the classic wilting in olive oil w/ lemon.

I included a picture .. you can see that I took the rapini too far.. it is pretty dark in places. :look:
Joined Feb 26, 2007
I don't think the elephant garlic rather than regular would be the problem, unless it got too brown.

Did you blanch the rapini before finishing it with the garlic and lemon? It doesn't take long after that. A bit too much lemon for that amount of veg, to my taste.

Also, your oil. Which type of olive oil did you use? Was it EV, pure or which? That may have had an effect if it was a very fruity one.

Fish looks good :)
Joined Oct 23, 2008
AHH! I didn't think to blanch it. Der... that would have solved the overcooking problem and probably have kept the ele garlic from going too far. I think you're right with the lemon amount. I did find it almost overpowering but rapini has such a deep bitter taste I thought it might handle it. The olive oil was ev.

Thanks for the reply. I'll deff blanch the next time, do you then shock it? or just drain and throw into the pan?

haha I just noticed the giant lemon seed on the fish.. :lol: that would get me kicked right out of a kitchen probably.
Joined Feb 26, 2007
I'd just be draining it and straight into the pan. If its bitter next time, toss in a little sugar to the finishing off. Keep tasting it till you get the balance right. Bit of butter could sweeten and mellow it out too.

Lol - didn't see the seed there. Tch Tch :)
Joined Aug 13, 2006
I eat a lot of rapini because they are really common here and i know they are a more specialty item abroad so I'll give you my two cents.
The stems are usually peeled in rapini, which is a pain but gives you more vegetable. You take your knife at the base, cut in a little to the peel and pull it up.
It is pretty much always blanched first here, then "ripassata" in olive oil and garlic.

Traditionally (you don;t have to be tied to tradition but it does give some indications of how people have found things taste best) yuou would EITHER use olive oil and lemon directly on the drained and cool vegetable OR pass it in the frying pan with olive oil and garlic. (You can also add some red pepper flakes).
I've never seen them both used together, though - that is, frying in the pan with garlic and adding lemon.
Cooked lemon is different from "raw" and gives a different taste. Generally, of the leaf vegetables, rapini don;t get lemon, but are almost always given the frying pan treatment.

Finally, rapini are very strong tasting. They go well with meats and stuff like sausages. (If you cook italian sausages in the frying pan, drain the excess grease, add oil directly to the pan, and add the garlic and rapini. Stir up the stuck stuff from the pan to flavor the rapini. Same with pork chops. With what looks like a delicate fish (i don;t know tilapia) you might want to go for a more delicate green lke spinach or string beans (where oil and lemon or butter and lemon are ideal seasoning.) But all this is obviously my personal taste.

I feel lucky here that rapini are extremely common all winter, and you can get them at the market already peeled and ready to go. (There are usually people who sit on the side of the vegetable vendors - relatives or hired by them - who prepare stuff like rapini). People buy them by the kilo, and you usually can expect to have a half your dish covered with a mound of them. Probably my favorite vegetable.
Joined Oct 23, 2008
Wow.. thanks Siduri.. getting advice from a regular rapini eater in Rome, Italy!! The internet is so awesome :D

I will heed the advice. I do agree now, that with the fish it was a bit too strong. It would have been great with sausage, and maybe even a little german-like with what ended up being my sour kraut elephant garlic :lol:

I will get some sausage (I'd like to try chicken sausage for the health reasons) tomorrow and give that a go with just the blanch, then saute in garlic and olive oil (no cooked lemon juice this time). I really do like the vegetable and some how my local supermarket has very good looking rapini that was grown in the U.S.

I like mustard greens, so to me they have that essence but with the nice little florets they are more interesting texturally. I would never substitute them for broccoli (which I love) they are nothing alike.

I really wish we had an actual market here. Our "farmers market" usually just contains boxes of items that were shipped in from other states/countries and we live in a fairly agricultural state (Florida). It is becoming all too often a theme that in the U.S. there is no such thing as a fresh market featuring locally produced seasonal products. I need to do my best to stop shopping at a supermarket and give business to the local butcher and fishmongers before they are all gone as well.
Joined Apr 3, 2008
Regarding lemon and garlic: I have found that sometimes when I cook garlic in lemon juice for a short amount of time it gives an off flavor. I'm no scientist but this rapid form of cooking doesn't meld the 2 ingredients together very well in my opinion and I have often seen the garlic turn green because of it as well.

Greeks eat their green vegetables in this same way, blanched and then sauteed with garlic and olive oil, and many times we blanch them and drizzle them with raw olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. It's very aromatic this way.

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