Here’s an interesting fact about strong-tasting foods: If you ate it during childhood, you’re more likely to love it as an adult. For me, that food is broccoli rabe. My Neapolitan grandma used to cook it for hours in a huge pot, occasionally stirring the oil, garlic, and vegetables with a wooden spoon, before serving with Romano cheese. The smell of sautéed robbies (as my family fondly calls them) still makes my mouth water — but many people don’t have the same reaction. Broccoli rabe is, admittedly, quite bitter. While nothing makes that flavor completely disappear, there are several things you can do — including a quick boil — to help reduce the bitterness.
How To Cook Broccoli Rabe So It Tastes Less Bitter
The first step in making broccoli rabe less bitter? Boil it for about five minutes. A quick boil (longer than a blanch) before a sauté helps greatly reduce bitterness, though it does result in a loss of nutrients. Many vitamins, like B-1, folate, and C, are water soluble, so they leach into the water as the vegetable boils. (To mitigate this loss of vitamins, save the water and use it to make veggie stock or add it to your morning smoothie.)
Next, cook your robbies low and slow, with a little olive oil and plenty of garlic. The slow cooking process helps the tough stems soften so no woody texture remains, and further reduces the bitter flavor. When your broccoli rabe has softened to your liking, serve it with salt and pepper or parmesan or Romano cheese. The salt and fat in the cheese naturally counteracts the bitter flavor (my grandma knew what she was doing). And if the bitterness is still too much for you, just “water it down” — toss some other greens into the sauté, such as broccoli or kale.
Why You Should Add Broccoli Rabe to Your Diet
As a cruciferous vegetable, broccoli rabe is a nutritional super green. Just one cup of the cooked veggie contains 60 calories, 9.2 grams of protein, and 6.7 grams of fiber. It also contains 218 milligrams of calcium, 545 micrograms of vitamin A, 65 milligrams of magnesium, 89 milligrams of vitamin C, and 170 micrograms of folate. Talk about packing a nutritional punch!
Broccoli rabe additionally contains glucosinolates — nutritious plant compounds that give cruciferous greens their pungent smells and flavors. Research shows that glucosinolates have anti-inflammatory properties, plus a diet rich in this plant compound is linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
While more studies are needed to prove these potential health benefits, the existing research is promising. Moral of the story? Don’t skimp on these bitter greens.
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