If you are what you eat…

…and I like bitter leafy greens, does that mean I’m bitter?
Of the five primary tastes (sweet, salty, sour, savory and bitter), it’s pretty much a no-brainer that bitter is the least favorite of the lot. Bitter is a taste most commonly encountered in coffee, unsweetened cocoa and certain vegetables. Most modern lettuces, cucumbers, eggplants and the standard cabbage have had bitterness bred out of them long ago, according to Harold McGee, but the bitterness remains in vegetables such as radicchio, chicory, endive, escarole and certain members of the cabbage family. Oh, and dandelion greens.
Dandelion greens, a.k.a. my new vegetable love. They were a standard offering in my Full Circle box a few weeks ago, and since they were on my “to try” list, I left them in my order instead of substituting an alternate selection. Full Circle offered the recommendation to serve them dressed in a warm vinaigrette to reduce some of the bitterness. I did just that, making a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. I gently heated it a bit and a small saucepan and tossed it with the greens. Delish!
(A note on Dijon mustard: We recently started buying the Trader Joe’s brand, and it is a kick in the pants! It made us realize that Grey Poupon, our previous Dijon-of-choice, has been “dumbed down” since it was bought by whichever mega food conglomerate took it over.)
I’ve since prepared dandelion greens with a cold (well, room-temp, really) vinaigrette and enjoyed the bitter taste, but that made them too bitter for Jeff’s palate, so I’ll go back to warm vinaigrettes when I’m not dining solo. They are an acquired taste and tend to be more popular in parts of Europe (such as Italy) and the American South (where they love their collard greens, too…yum!).  
This is really something I’ve enjoyed about getting my weekly box o’ fruit and veg delivered to my doorstep: The slight element of the unexpected. That plus variety. I’m getting a lot more variety now that I’m not buying my produce at Costco, and it’s truly been a pleasure. 
I’m not sure how I acquired this new taste for dandelion greens, but it seems to follow in the progression of my evolving appreciation for greens that are more “complicated” than standard salad greens: First the peppery bite of arugula, then the heartiness of the many varieties of kale, then  the pungent kick of mustard greens, and finally the appealing bitterness of dandelion greens. I participated in a Full Circle focus group a few evenings ago and took home three bunches of beautiful Tuscan kale (sample produce that they couldn’t turn around and sell, so it was up for grabs). No one even tried to fight me for it. I guess not everyone loves dark leafy greens like I do!
Speaking of greens, I made a great tabbouleh recipe last weekend that was a hit with my tiny household and our houseguests. I have a tried-and-true tabbouleh recipe that I’ve been making for years (it came from the long-defunct Kitchen Gardener magazine…I cried some “bitter” tears when that publication folded, I’ll tell ya). This recipe, from Saveur magazine uses far more parsley and far less bulgur, which is more authentic, as it happens. And more like a parsley salad, less like a grain dish. For those gluten-free folks, you could substitute quinoa for the bulgur. I’ve made quite a few quinoa tabboulehs in my day, and while not technically authentic, they were quite good.

Tabbouleh
Makes 3 cups

Ingredients:
3 tbsp. bulgur wheat
1⁄2 medium white onion, chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
1⁄2 tsp. ground allspice
1 lb. medium tomatoes, cored, seeded,
and finely chopped
3 cups minced flat-leaf parsley
1⁄2 cup finely chopped mint leaves
7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
5 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

  1. Put bulgur into a small bowl; cover with 1⁄2 cup warm water. Let soften for 10 minutes; drain bulgur; set aside.
  2. Put the onions on a cutting board and sprinkle them with 1 tsp. salt and the allspice. Finely chop the onions.
  3. Transfer onions and reserved bulgur to a large bowl along with the tomatoes, parsley, mint, oil, and lemon juice. Stir to combine and season with salt. Serve at room temperature.