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How Do You Keep Broccoli Rabe From Being to Bitter?

sivyaleah Jun 11, 2006 08:54 PM

Typically I've found broccoli rabe to be quite bitter no matter how it's prepared it seems. Unless it's cooked to death, in which case it isn't worth eating.

Last night, my husband and I were out to dinner and split a really great grilled cheese stuffed sweet italian sausage and broccoli rabe appetizer in a roasted garlic vinegar sauce which blew our minds away because... the broccoli rabe didn't have once iota of bitterness to it!

How could this be? What did they do to it to manage this? Was it something about the preparation? I thought maybe, that because there was vinegar in the sauce that perhaps it helped to balance out the natural bitterness of the veggie, or cut it?. Does that make sense?

I'd love to find this out because my husband really enjoyed it and normally he shys away from it because he dislikes the bitter quality.

Any ideas?


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  1. d
    doc RE: sivyaleah Jun 11, 2006 09:37 PM

    par boil it for 2 minutes

    1 Reply
    1. re: doc
      mark1414 RE: doc Feb 10, 2012 07:34 AM

      Forget blanching, you need a lot of water boil it quickly, ice bath and your good. the more water the more the bitterness dissipates. Good luck!

    2. a
      Aaron RE: sivyaleah Jun 11, 2006 11:07 PM

      Blanch it for 1 minute (or 2) and shock to prevent continued cooking. Then use as normal. It knocks out a ton of the bitterness. However, taste some before you do this, as broccoli rabe varies in bitterness, and you might not need to do anything at all.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Aaron
        melon RE: Aaron Jun 12, 2006 02:57 PM

        I second the blanching. However, since I often forget this step or don't realize I need it until after sauteeing, I have also sauteed with the garlic and THEN added some water with just the TINIEST bit of sugar or honey in it at the end (then strain).

      2. t
        theSauce RE: sivyaleah Jun 11, 2006 11:10 PM

        I think you have to buy young broccoli rabe from the market. The older or the bigger the broccoli rabe gets the bitter it becomes.

        1. s
          Sarah C RE: sivyaleah Jun 12, 2006 09:02 AM

          The touch of bitterness in broccoli rabe is part of what makes it unique. Personally, I like a little of the bitter taste, but we all taste things differently. Perhaps this is just not your vegetable. My husband doesn't care for it so I don't cook it for him.

          My Chinese friend Nancy once prepared Chinese bitter melon for me and that was waaaay too bitter for my taste -- we decided it is either an acquired taste or a matter of personal preference.

          1. g
            GR RE: sivyaleah Jun 12, 2006 09:04 AM

            In one Italian cookbook with a recipe for pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage, the author indicates that peeling the outer skin off of the stalks helps to reduce the bitterness. It also seems to me that the broccoli rabe most often available has grown less bitter over time--maybe they're breeding it out of it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: GR
              GretchenS RE: GR Jun 12, 2006 10:45 AM

              I agree that it seems less bitter than it used to be (sad, because I like the bitterness) and I bet they are breeding it that way, just as they have bred a lot of heat out of supermarket jalapenos. But if it's still too bitter for you, blanching it as suggested below should do the trick.

              1. re: GretchenS
                rjbh20 RE: GretchenS Feb 10, 2012 08:53 AM

                Agree on both fronts -- the flavor is getting bred out of everything. Don't get me started on pork & chicken.

                Broccoli rabe is supposed to be bitter & jalepenos are supposed to be hot. If you don't like the bitterness in broccoli rabe or the heat in jalepenos, eat regular broccoli & bell peppers

              2. re: GR
                Cheese Boy RE: GR Jun 12, 2006 11:40 AM

                I agree. Rabe used to be very bitter. The crop are a lot more subtle now and you can probably guess that's in part why they've become increasingly popular. People tend to shy away from bitter greens. Rapini tend to be more on the bitter side.

              3. m
                Mila RE: sivyaleah Jun 12, 2006 01:33 PM

                I love the bitterness.

                I pair it with strong flavours, like pasta with Italian sausage, garlic and chile and the flavours balance each other.

                1. m
                  Mike RE: sivyaleah Jun 12, 2006 04:29 PM

                  The easiest way is to micorwave it. Rinse the rabe and leave all of the water on it. Place in a dish that is safe for the micro and cover with a baggie. Depending on your micro , 2-3 minutes should be enough. Then, cook as you would like.

                  1. e
                    escondido123 RE: sivyaleah Feb 10, 2012 08:44 AM

                    We also boil it first, maybe 5 minutes, before sauteing in olive oil with garlic. But last week, following our normal routine, we had a bunch that was not really bitter, but rather had that strong mustard flavor....since it is part of the mustard family not surprising.

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