Cima di Rapa, or something else?

mystery_veg1.jpg

I'm starting out the week with a mystery. What is this vegetable?

I got it on Saturday at a wonderful store we have here that is part wholesale food supply store, part ethnic grocery. The wholesale part shows itself in 5 kilo bags of frozen shrimp and bulk produce sold at unbelievably low prices. The ethnic part though is what gets me excited every time I go there, which is quite often because it's conveniently located on my regular commuting route. They stock all kinds of exciting looking spices and ingredients for Indian, Tamil, Turkish, former-Yugoslavia region, and other cuisines that are mostly quite unfamiliar to me. And the selection of unusual produce is unparalleled.

Back to the vegetable though. It was labeled as Cima di Rapa, or broccoli rabe. But it doesn't look like the broccoli rabe I know, which looks like regular broccoli shoots amongsts dark green leaves. This one had really pretty rounded, light green flower buds (at least I'm assuming they are flower buds), each about the size of my thumb. Here's a close up of the flower buds.

mystery_veg2.jpg

I cooked it like I might broccoli rabe or regular broccoli: I took out the flower buds, cut them in half lengthwise, chopped up the leaves, and sautéed them both in olive oil with garlic. The flower buds were crunchy, a touch buttery, and just a bit bitter. The leaves were more bitter though still edible. Since I love vegetables with a touch of bitterness to them, I thought it was delicious.

Is this a variety of Cima di Rapa / broccoli rabe, or something else? And what other ways are there of cooking it?

[Update: As many people have pointed out in the comments I now know that it's puntarelle or catalogna. So no more need to comment or email me about it - thanks!]

Comments

Definitely not broccoli rabe, I am almost sure it is what is called cicoria catalogna or puntarelle in Italy. The picture is somewhat from a different angle but it seems to me they could be the same plant:

http://www.radicchio.com/product/puntarelle.html

If it is puntarelle, try them in a salad with the classic Roman dressing of garlic, anchovies and EV olive oil. To prepare it, discard the darker leaves and shred the lighter ones into strips. Drop them into iced water for about an hour, or till they start curling on themselves, and dress as above. Delicious :-).

Yep, looks like puntarelle (a variety of chicory) to me.

See http://www.theproducehunter.com/productdisplay.asp?ID=2228

Sam, over at Becks and Posh had a post about something that looked very like this last week. Hers was puntarelle. So, probably the same, guessing it's now in season.

Thank you everyone for the responses! It does look like puntarelle. Actually, I was at the same store yesterday pondering the vegetable, and another shopper said that it was "catalogna", the other name Alberto suggested. The leaves are interesting but the shoots or flowers are the really intriguing part of this . I'm going to try the Roman dressing!

I haven't looked at puntarelle yet, so that may be right.
I thought it might be a type of sprouting broccoli, but when I found this page:
http://www.vidaverde.co.uk/broccoli.html
I found the picture of cima di rape there rather convincing (although I cooked broccoli rabe last week and it looked different from this - the leaves were more rape-like and the broccoli more broccoli-ish!

Funnily enough I have been trying to figure out what that plant was too---I knew about puntarelle but had never seen the whole plant, called catalogna, until the other day when it was written up in an Italian cooking magazine, Sale e Pepe, April 2006. They have three recipes for it, one as described above as a salad with oil, vinegar, garlic and anchovy dressing, one lightly battered with a batter made of egg whites, flour and white wine, then fried. A third cut in strips and cooked with snowpeas, pinenuts, raisins, onions and beradcrumbs (at the end).

Hmm, I think I can get that magazine here. I'll look for it! Those recipes sound delicious - thanks Kerry!

That´s Catalogna or Puntarelle (in Rome). They are usually served crude, and in Rome along with with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and anchoves.
cima di rape is another universe, please
100% italian

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