Vegetable familes are just like human ones, at times confusing in their variation. Chicory, or cicoria as it is generally known in Italy can either be cooked or eaten raw.
The very dark green leafy kind has to be cooked, indeed simmered for longer than one would think advisable, and then drained. Impossible to eat raw. It’s absolutely one of my favourites, hands down, especially the wild kind. Here is a link:
Instead, with the kind of chicory that is referred to as “catalogna” or “cicoria asparago” (what on earth has it got to do with asparagus I ask in consternation), tradition has it to eat it raw. This is where we get the famous ‘puntarelle’ here in Rome.
Here is a link, in case you’re interested https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/little-points-big-salad-puntarelle/
I was discussing vegetables in general with Chef Luigi at the Minardi Winery where we work, and he was telling me about a fantastic recipe from Puglia which involved cooking the kind of cicoria that we only eat raw around here, i.e. the puntarelle. So of course I had a go. In fact, I had TWO go’s. Take a look.
I got rid of the very white stalks on the right.
I went old school with the garlic, It’s the done thing nowadays to keep the garlic whole or semi-whole, bashing the bulb around a bit and then removing it after a while. If you don’t remove the skin, you say that it is left ‘inside its shirt’, i.e. “l’aglio in camicia” in Italian. Old school means you are not afeared of garlic, of ending up with a ‘rustic’ taste, that was erstwhile fit for peasants sort-of-thing. Posh people, like Queen Elisabeth, have a problem with garlic. Vampires from all over the world flock to Italy because of the decrease in use of garlic … ha ha ha, of course not. Anyway back to the recipe. As much garlic as you like, some chilli flakes and a big puddle of good quality olive oil. Make sure the garlic does not burn, it must only turn golden. And it’s also a good idea to keep the heat low, so that all the yummy stuff in the garlic itself will infuse the olive oil in a gentle way. Should things get out of hand heat-wise, simply remove the frying pan from the source of heat and carry on cooking without it.
I’ve no idea what this photo is all about. Maybe to show that the garlic had turned the proper hue?
In go some anchovy fillets, the kind that are either salted or come bottle in jars. If you hate anchovies, for goodness sakes leave them out.
In goes the cicoria catalogna … over a strong heat I say. Don’t be shy.
Quite a lot of liquid will be released. Normal. It’s okay. Let it cook down.It does cook down after a while.
When it is ‘done’, add plenty of freshly grated pecorino cheese.
Simple, hearty and delicious. Yay kind of delicious. Who knew?
RECIPE NUMBER TWO
I thought I would cook sausages that evening.
I cooked the Italian sausages in a frying pan, adding a little bit of red wine and some herbs. Once cooked, this is what was left behind. The cicoria catalogna I cooked in a separate saucepan, as shown above.
Ooops and did I forget the pecorino?
No, no … I had not forgotten the pecorino. But I also added the juices from the sausages.
Anyway … with or without sausage, this was a most welcome new entry into my world of Winter Vegetables.
P.S. If you’re watching your carbs (you know what I’m getting at … avoiding bread and all that), well … be warned then, don’t say I didn’t tell you!, this is a most dangerous dish. It just clamours good crusty bread, begs for it.