Sunday, 2 August 2015

Bitter & Toasted

Crostini con Cicoria Saltata con Pancetta & Semi di Finocchio
Wild Chicory, Sautéed with Bacon & Fennel Seeds on Toast


Well, normally I may not have spooned my greens onto a slice of toast, or a toasted roll, to enjoy them, I would probably picked at them from a plate and had a little bread to accompany them, you know? As one does , down in The Old Country, come evening time... But I'm a rebel at heart! And so that's what I did this evening!

All silliness aside, it is quite normal and especially in the summer months traditional, to cook up some greens to be enjoyed cold, along with maybe some olives and cheese or salted meats in the evening... With a little bread and a glass of wine, that's what you call supper!


Italians love bitter greens... Sicilians and Pugliese do especially... And I of course love them too! How about you?

I think it's a shame sometimes, that people are not more inquisitive, curious and plain eager to try out vegetables they are not familiar with!

Italian wild chicory, "cicoria" or "catalogna" as it is sometimes known, is a rich, bittersweet and complex flavor... A vegetable for grown-ups and a staple of Southern Italy. I think I already mentioned that I love it, no?


This evening, I prepared 1 small head of very young and tender chicory, with 1 shallot, a handful of finely diced bacon, a teaspoon of fennel seeds and a little salt, pepper and olive oil. Back to basics, plain and simple but flavorful and delicious and just plain GOOD food!

By adding a little bacon and shallot, I added of course some great savory depth of flavor as well as a welcome touch of sweetness... And by adding the fennel seed, also, a wonderful taste and aroma, but at the same time, something to ease the digestion and increase the enjoyment- which is important, because it's important to eat them... They are so good for you!


Simply slice up the shallot and chop the chicory into bite-sized pieces... No fussing or fancy stuff necessary here... We are making real food and not messing about! It's all about the taste!


Begin by sautéing the bacon, shallot and fennel seeds together in a non-stick pan with no added oil, just until the shallot begins to turn translucent and the bacon has rendered most of its own fat.


Next, add the greens, still wet from rinsing, season with salt and pepper, stir through once and pop in the lid. Allow to cook and steam away for 5-10 minutes... It all depends on how tender the stalks are... Or are not!  


Keep stirring and tossing the greens until all of the water/juices have evaporated away, and basically, until the bacon bits begin to get crispy again.

Once it is done, you can pop the lid back in and set the greens to one side... They can then continue to steam a little in the residual heat and then cool down until you are ready to prepare and eat them later.

Of course you can also eat them hot... But that's not what I did this evening!


Once they are properly cool, taste again to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary and add some fresh, raw olive oil before serving... It makes all the difference!

Not your typical sandwich or snack is it? But them I'm not your typical guy, either! And in my book... Different is always something worth trying... Life's too short NOT to!

This and a glass of wine, or a cold beer... Is all you need sometimes. It really is. Italian food is not always about those big meals... In real life, people down south are content with a lot less... And I like that. Because so am I.

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