Eaten on their own, bitter greens, like broccoli rabe, chicory, turnip greens, and even kale can have bite that’s strong and assertive.
5 ways to tame the bitterness
- Blanch First
Blanching helps to leech out some of the bitterness and works best with hardier greens.
- Add Strongly-Flavored Ingredients
Fight bitterness with other flavors like sweetness and spice. Having a strong contrasting flavor will temper the bitterness and help balance the dish out since bitter greens can have a strong vegetal flavor in addition to bitterness.
- Add Acid
Acids, like vinegar and citrus juice, help to brighten up bitter greens and provide a light contrasting flavor.
- Use Salt
Salt is a friend to bitter greens, whether you plan to eat them raw or cooked. It eases an otherwise assertive bite into a tame, pleasantly flavor.
- Braise Them
The slow cooking will cut the bitter bite, and will also soften the otherwise tough leaves. For sturdy greens with a bitter bite, like rapini, collards, kale, and turnip greens consider braising.
Recipe: Kale & Quinoa Salad
- For the salad and toppings:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup red quinoa
1 small clove garlic, smashed
1 bunch Black Tuscan Kale
1/2 heaping cup whole dates
1/2 cup roasted salted whole almonds
- For the dressing:
1 clementine or mandarin orange, juiced
1/2 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a wide sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has darkened to a toasty brown and smells caramelized. Remove from the heat and set aside. You should have about 1/2 cup of cooked onions.
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Add it and the garlic to a saucepan set over medium-high heat and sauté for about a minute both to dry the grain and toast it lightly. Add 1 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat to low; cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the lid on for an additional 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the lid and fluff with a fork.
- Slice off the muddy bottoms of the kale stems, then slice the rest of the bunch into fine ribbons. Wash thoroughly and spread on a towel to dry.
- Pit the dates and slice them into quarters. Roughly chop the almonds, by which I mean try to chop each almond into just two or three pieces, no more.
- Make the dressing: Whisk the juices together (you should have about 1/4 cup total of juice, or a little less). Whisk in the maple syrup and olive oil. The dressing will be emulsified but still thin. Stir about 2 tablespoons of the dressing into the quinoa after it finishes cooking.
- Assemble the salad: Toss the kale with all of the still-warm quinoa and the caramelized onions. Toss with about half the dressing and taste. Add the remaining dressing if desired, then toss with the dates and almonds. Taste a bite; if it needs more salt, add it now, as well as fresh pepper if desired.