Monday, 9 March 2015

Better Bakin' with Bacon!

Puntarelle Gratinate con Pancetta, Fiocchi di Pomodoro, Mollica & Ricotta Salata
Puntarelle, Bacon, Tomato Flake, Bread Crumb & Salted Ricotta Gratin

Sometimes, I go out on a limb and try something new out, based on the kinds of flavor combinations, textures and ingredients that I know and love. And sometimes I get lucky. Really, really lucky. Like this time!

I have tried cooking puntarelle in the past, but always preferred them as a salad- their kissing-cousins, wild Italian chicory, do much better in a saucepan or frying pan. Or so I thought. Until this evening...


I decided to try making the bitter flavor milder by adding sweet onion into the mix, to give them more flavor by adding the tangy dried tomato flake, by adding crunch with the breadcrumbs and seasoning with the ricotta cheese. All good stuff! And what makes something good even better? Sure! Bacon! Sorry my vegan and vegetarian friends- it just wouldn't be the same without it!

But it would still be ok I suppose- haha!  


So- here we go! You will need 1 head of puntarelle- if you can't get them, you can probably substitute them with regular endives- not quite the same, but pretty similar flavor-wise. Otherwise- 1 good handful of finely chopped bacon, 1 onion, 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons approx of salted Ricotta cheese and 2 tablespoons of dehydrated tomato flakes... wonderful things that they are!


What happens when those tomato flakes re-hydrate with the onions and bread crumbs is pretty amazing! And the absolute perfect companion to the puntarelle- together with the bacon and grated Ricotta- an incredible taste of Southern Italy which is totally new and delicious... and courtesy of lil' ol' me!


Sure- there is a little bacon in there, yes, there is a drizzle of olive oil... but otherwise, this is a healthy and light dish, all things considered... and still, it is satisfying enough to easily stand alone as a great supper! And how!

Preparation here is minimal- simply cut the separate "pods" of the puntarelle away from the stalk, wash them well and then boil them in salted water for 5-10 minutes.

In the meantime, turn on your oven, pop your frying pan onto the stove top and slice up that onion!

Fry the onion together with the bacon with no added fat- that little bit of bacon has more than enough- you'll see.


After around 7-8 minutes, depending on the size of the puntarelle, once they have changed their color to a mild, light green, drain them off and add them to the frying pan. Stir them together with the bacon and onion, season with just a little salt but plenty of pepper and you are ready to transfer them to a baking dish.


Set the puntarelle out in your baking dish and spoon the bacon and onion nice and evenly all over.


Season with pepper, sprinkle generously with the tomato flakes and bread crumbs and grate lightly with the salted Ricotta. Drizzle very lightly both with olive oil AND with a little water, so that the bread crumbs are nicely moistened and then bake in a hot oven, at 180°C for 20-25 minutes until crispy and golden brown.

The water, olive oil and the moisture of the onion and the puntarelle themselves will re-hydrate the tomato flakes, which in turn, will infuse both the breadcrumbs and the puntarelle themselves with their rich flavor... and they taste sooo good!


Does that picture "do it for you"... it certainly should do! And I promise you, they taste every bit as delicious as they look right here... if not much, much more!

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