Ask me what I miss most, in terms of food, about the States and I'll tell you: stock in a jar and dark green, leafy vegetables. But really, I'd happily give up the jarred stock if it meant I could just have my beloved vegetables. There are only so many Gurken and Blumenkohl and Kopfsalate one can eat before ones goes entirely insane with yearning for a pile of boiled, bitter greens.
But one year and 27 days after arriving back in Berlin, I finally found my beloved broccoli rabe. Sitting inncocently in a bin at the front of the Nazar Market (if you leave your computer's sound on while clicking on that link, you're in for a, er, treat) on Wilmersdorfer Strasse, labeled "cime di rape", which is its Italian name, it looked like it was just waiting for me to come along and finally spy it. They also had beautiful piles of very fresh spinach and baby Swiss chard with tiny red ribs for salads.
Dark green, leafy vegetables, agreeably bitter to boot: I've missed you! I can live without mustard greens, without collard greens and Tuscan kale. But a life without broccoli rabe, well, what kind of a life is that, I ask you?
I like to wash and trim the broccoli rabe stalks, then half boil-half steam them in a covered pot with about an inch of water in it. Cook them longer than you think you should: the longer they cook, the sweeter and more tender they'll get. Take it from all the Italian grandmothers in the world, and from me.
Once you've drained your cooked broccoli rabe, you'll have a mess of limpish greens. These can be, among other things:
a. dressed with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon
b. sautéed in a pan with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt (crucial)
The best thing about the second option is that this can be used as a pasta sauce. Just make sure you save a little bit of the starchy cooking water to toss with the pasta and vegetables, in case of dryness. Grated Parmigiano on top brings it all together. (If you happen to have a stash of fresh Italian sausage lying around, you can crumble it into the same frying pan as the broccoli to cook while the pasta boils.)
Wilmersdorfer Strasse 132