Broccoli raab [rob] has long, thin rich-green stems (6-9 inches/18-23 cm long) topped with scattered clusters of broccoli-like florets. The flavor is nutty and both pungent and zesty.
Rapini [rah-PEE-nee] is similar to broccoli raab but with fewer florets and a flavor akin to mustard. Rapini is preferred for its mustard-like tops. (Both have leaves that look like turnip greens.)
Either is a good match for less assertive partners such as pasta, rice, polenta or potatoes. Italian cookbooks dating back to the fourteenth century included broccoli raab and rapini recipes.
For the record, here are some of the other names also used for these vegetables: raab, rapa, rabe, rapine, rappi, rappone, fall and spring raab, turnip broccoli, taitcat, Italian broccoli, broccoli rape, broccoletti di rape, broccoletto, broccoli di foglia, cime de rape, rape, broccoli de rabe, Italian turnip, and turnip broccoli. There is a related but milder green grown in China which is known as choy sum or Chinese broccoli or Chinese flowering cabbage.
Choose. Select stems that are upright and firm with leaves that are bright green. The florets should be tightly closed.
Serve. These two can be stir-fried, steamed, sautéed and braised or included in soups or salads. Try this: Trim the bottom of the stems and cut the stalks crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Drop them into boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. Sauté in a little olive oil and garlic to taste for 3 to 5 minutes until tender.