To tame the bitterness of broccoli rabe, I like to cook it with its cousin broccoli. Well, actually I don't think broccoli and broccoli rabe are cousins. Broccoli rabe is more closely related to wild mustard, but the florets do resemble broccoli, and they seem to get along in terms of flavor. If you're not sure that you even like broccoli rabe, then try cooking it with some broccoli. It might just win you over.
A lot of the recipes for broccoli rabe call for blanching it before sauteing. The blanching is another way to tame that bitterness. But who wants to dirty up another pot? Here's my simple and delicious way to combine broccoli and broccoli rabe. This is less of a recipe and more of just a few guidelines, so it can be adapted to whatever quantity you want to make.
Start off by cleaning and trimming your broccoli and broccoli rabe. I usually use equal amounts of each. I like to cut it up fairly small because it cooks quicker, say 1 inch pieces. Also chop up some garlic, one or two cloves.
Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Broccoli rabe can take a bit of heat, so add to your taste. Just as soon as it sizzles (almost immediately), add the broccoli and broccoli rabe. Generously season it with salt. Stir it a bit and then turn down the heat to very low and cover it.
Cook until it is tender. Start checking it after about 5 minutes. The salt will bring out the moisture in the vegetables so you shouldn't have to add any water to the pan, but if it does dry out, just add a little water or chicken broth. When it's done, you can grind a little black pepper over it and serve it as is or dress it up with some grated Parmesan cheese on top. It's also delicious mixed into some pasta with a cheese sauce. That slight bitterness of the broccoli rabe adds a richness to the plain broccoli that I find pretty irresistible. The two are a winning combination.