Bitter leaves make me salivate, and none more so than the deep dark red variety. This has not always been the case, in fact it seems to be a fairly recent addiction, one borne of ageing (somewhat) gracefully, as though my taste buds have, at last, reached maturity.
Bitter isn't easy. Bitter requires input, but then, why should things always be simple? The inclination toward habitually-sweet should be kicked out of every last one of us beyond the age of thirty, and the ability to balance flavours on a plate signals a fine cook at work. Spears of pale green witlof (endive, chicory) in a salad with mild blue cheese and brown-sugar roasted walnuts get you started, coaxing harshness to sweetness, a classic combination.
I dismissed The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson initially, thrown by the inclusion, second recipe in, of a chicken stock (says she who any quick perusal of her archive will reveal a beast of the very same ilk...). But, like the bitter I've grown to desire, his is sophisticated food, flesh-free, for the grown-ups. The crescendo of bitter must surely be the exquisite Wilted radicchio with green sauce on page 120, a dish tamed not by dairy (too easy), but by a herbal, mustard- and caper-based dressing, and served with very thin slices of hard-boiled egg, cut with the utmost of care, alongside. Elegant eating for two.
Seek the book out and give it some time; the worthwhile things in this life are rarely - if indeed ever - easy.