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Oct 21, 2010 06:20 AM

Wow! This Broccoli Rabe is...Bitter

I know that broccoli rabe has a bitter reputation but the past couple times I've made it- it really has been inedible. Is it the white wine?
Basically my preparation is blanching for two minutes in salted water, then sauteing some onions in evoo, fresh tomato, garlic, then adding white wine and letting that cook down for a couple minutes, then adding my broccoli rabe and red chili flakes, sauteing everything together for two minutes before serving. Thoughts? Suggestions? We're running out of vegetable sides, so any ideas would be much appreciated. Thanks!!

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  1. My thoughts....

    Is there any chance you are burning the garlic over high heat when you are reducing the liquid? Try tasting the broccoli rabe after blanching. If it's not too bitter then, it shouldn't be bitter after the rest of your recipe and the bitterness must stem from one of your other ingredients.

    I usually use chicken stock myself.....friends I know like to use a squeeze or two of lemon.

    1. i always felt that was about rabe so you are not alone.

      do you ever do sauteed baby spinach? some olive oil in a pan and in our case, a clove of minced garlic and some lemon pepper. after they start to heat, add the spinach in batches until it just wilts.

      we also enjoy asparagus sauteed or grilled. easy and pretty quick too.

      1. For me, when cooking rabe, Less Is More. Over medium heat I sauté a sliced Spanish onion and a few chopped garlic cloves till slightly brown, almost caramelized, adding some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I slice the stems of the rabe crosswise (2" pieces) and throw them into the pan to fry slightly before I throw in the chopped leaves. Cook till stems and leaves are tender. That's it. We love it as a side dish or incorporated into cooked and drained pasta, adding a bit of the pasta cooking water and freshly grated Romano.

        As you say, rabe by nature is a bitter green. That's why I don't like to add any acidic ingredients. The trick is, I think, to make sure the greens are cooked through totally but still have their sprightly color. Also... I do not blanch the rabe before sautéing it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gio

          I agree, Gio.

          To elaborate on your suggestions, add cooked and chopped rabe to gnocchi with a creamy sauce right before serving; the bitterness cuts and compliments the rich pasta perfectly.

        2. It *is* bitter and not everyone enjoys it. I adore it, but my husband hates it. He, by contrast, doesn't think Brussels sprouts have a bitter aftertaste at all, but I can't even put them in my mouth, even if I practically boil them in bacon fat. You may just be highly sensitive to the bitter compounds in some vegetables and maybe lack receptors for the other flavor components that would offset the bitterness in those veggies. That's my theory for why I hate Brussels sprouts, anyway.

          Just in case you think you can learn to like broccoli rabe, here's what I do: Blanch for 2-3 minutes in liberally salted water. Saute garlic in evoo, then add about 1/2 cup of basmati rice, then the rabe, then some sweet vermouth and liquid (water or chicken broth) to cook the rice, lid on for about 15 minutes. The rice and vermouth help to mellow the rabe. Like you, I also sometimes add chili flakes. Adding raisins is also really nice.

          If you still don't like it, it's no big deal. There are lots of veggies out there, so it is perfectly okay not to eat a few of them.

          1. I believe this might have something to do with your taste buds. I have the same issue -- my DH and son adore broccoli rabe, but to me it tastes painfully bitter. I read somewhere about how this is determined by your taste buds and how some people just taste bitter things in a more extreme way. I have to avoid it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: roxlet

              While for some reason I like the idea of having unique taste buds that are so sensitive, foods for mere mortals are too intense for me, I think it might be my preparation because I've had the vegetable out at restaurants and enjoyed it.
              It's not the garlic being burnt because I know that smell very well, thought is the white wine presents an acidity that is tough to swallow with the bitterness of the rabe. I'll have to try making it without the w.w. And throwing in some raisins....

              1. re: coco99

                What, you don't want to be special like everyone else? ;)

                1. re: coco99

                  I think Broccoli Rabe is an acquired taste. I didn't care for it at first, but now it is just about my favorite vegetable. I started out always blanching it first, but now I just cut it into chiffonade and toss it in a saute pan with lots of fruity olive oil. I don't put the garlic in until it's about halfway done. I've never used white wine in cooking rabe, but I often finish it with a little sprinkle of balsamic vinegar for a little "agro-dolce."