A Drizzle Of Honey Is All You Need To Balance Out Bitter Broccoli Rabe

While regular broccoli tends to be everyone's top choice for a tasty green side, broccoli rabe is patiently sitting in the corner, waiting for us to discover it. The vegetable, sometimes called rapini, has hints of nuttiness with a deep, earthy flavor. It's also, of course, quite bitter. If you find the taste overwhelming, though, it's nothing a drizzle of honey can't fix.

If you're not familiar with rapini, just think of it as the vegetable that highlights and balances the richness in other foods. Roasted broccoli rabe will change your sandwiches forever, as well as any other dish filled with umami from meat, cheese, and sauces. But what if broccoli rabe is the one in need of balance? For that, you'll want to turn to something sweet. Saccharine ingredients counteract a harsh bite, and honey's floral, woodsy flavor works particularly well on veggies.

For broccoli rabe, this solution can come via a honeyed glaze. The syrupy liquid is known to burn at higher temperatures, so include it towards the end of the cooking process. Roasting rapini is one of our favorite methods of preparation, as it coaxes out the nuttiness from within. For this, add the honey during the last five minutes, giving it enough time to settle into the vegetable without charring. When sauteeing, squeeze in the honey about a minute before taking the pan off the stove, along with some water to thin it out as needed.

How else can you balance broccoli rabe's bitterness?

While honey and broccoli rabe are a delicious combo, sometimes it can taste like sugar on top of a mound of bitterness. If you need to find more ways to counteract that bitterness, turn to acid, as well. Acidic ingredients temper both a saccharine and acerbic bite, making it exactly what your honeyed rapini needs. While a honey balsamic glaze takes a richer approach to the leafy greens, the combination of lemon zest or juice and honey is unbeatable. Whisk the citrus juice and honey together before pouring it over your roasted or sauteed rapini. For a bright glaze that's still sweet, use freshly-squeezed orange juice instead.

Really taming bitterness, however, comes in the prep work. Blanching is a simple method to take the bitterness out of broccoli rabe, and it only takes about three minutes. Once the rapini turns bright green in salted boiling water, move it to an ice bath and dry it before cooking. After it's been dried, you can move on to prepare your broccoli rabe. Sauteeing it is pretty quick, but roasting effectively caramelizes the vegetable, bringing out its sweet side to replace the bitterness. And if all else fails, just reach for another drizzle of honey.