Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Hot & Cold from The Old Country

Cicoria Stufata, Peperoni, Olive & Pomodori Secche
Braised Italian Chicory, with Peppers, Olives & Sun-Dried Tomatoes


Yes, it is hotter than hot all of a sudden in Frankfurt- so why on earth, you are asking yourself, is that guy cooking something in a tajine and not making a salad or throwing something onto the grill!?!

Well, there are two good reasons for it. The main reason, is because this is the kind of meal that most people down in southern Italy prepare at lunchtime, to enjoy cold as an evening meal. The other reason is... It took care of itself whilst I took a nice, long, cooling shower as it cooked! Haha!

Oh- and the third reason, is because I don't have a grill!!!

We love our greens in Sicily and especially the bitter ones, but that can said to be true for all of the south. And they always taste better when they are combined with something milder or sweeter of course... Like onions for sure, and this evening, I thought maybe some sweet peppers would be a good idea... And it was! Except that a few turned out to be quite a bit hotter than I thought they might! Wow! Peppers can often be full of surprises, I can tell you!

Thankfully, I love my food hot and spicy, but oh boy! Still, the combination with the other ingredients worked wonderfully... And by the time I was ready for supper... I was ready for a treat!


My ingredients were 1 head of Italian chicory, 2 spring onions, 4 halves of sun-dried tomatoes, 5 sweet/hot peppers, 9-10 black olives, salt, pepper and olive oil.


This is the kind of thing that we call "companaggio" in Sicily, the "accompaniment" for your daily, (or evening) bread. Companaggio can be olives, cheese, hams or salamis, vegetables, pickles or other cold, left-overs from lunch... Poor people's food, but good food!

Start off by popping the peppers and the spring onion, into a saucepan, or if you have one, a tajine like I did, with a good splash of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and plenty of pepper. Ok... Had I known how hot the peppers we're going to turn out to be, I would have used less ground pepper maybe... But you get the idea!

I decided to use the tagine, because traditionally, way back when, this was the kind of dish that was stewed or braised in a clay pot. The tajine was the closest thing I had to that... End of story! Except for stating the obvious... OF COURSE you can use a regular saucepan!


Whilst the peppers and onion sizzle away, wash and halve the chicory leaves, but do not shake all of the water off them, instead, place them dripping wet into the tajine along with the peppers, then add the sun-dried tomatoes cut into slices and the olives cut in half, with the stones removed, and maybe 1 cup of water, and stir everything through. Pop on the lid, reduce the heat to about half-way and allow to simmer and steam and cook for the next 40-45 minutes.


Yes, of course you should check every now and then... But generally speaking, the little bit of water in the tajine or saucepan, will turn to steam, which will in turn cause the greens and the peppers for that case, to give off their own juices, which should produce plenty of moisture in all to cook everything down nicely.

Basically, the greens need to both wilt down and to soak up their own juices, which will be packed with flavor from the olives and dried tomatoes, as well as the sweetness and hotness of the peppers. The added sweetness of the onion is what does the trick and makes everything milder... That's a lot of different flavors going on in there! And that is a good thing!


With a last drizzle of oil before serving, these are great for an evening snack with some crusty bread, or as a side-dish or part of a party spread. It may only appeal to the adults... But that is fine! You don't do without wine at the table just because your kids aren't going to drink it now, do you?


This may be a little prettier in my version than it may have been the olden days where it may have boiled away for a couple of hours... But I think that 45 minutes is plenty of time for those greens to cook in... Plus... I was hungry!!!


I am sure you make something similar using endives, or "regular chicory" if you can't get "cicoria " or "catalogna" as it is also sometimes called... But try to get the real thing if you want to know how one of the best-loved greens from the Old Country tastes... It's bitter alright... Must you might just like it all the same!

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