Eating bitter chicory greens is an ancient tradition in the Italian cuisine, especially in the southern regions. For centuries people used to hand-pick the wild variety of this plant in the surrounding areas of their homes and cook it right away, sometimes sautéed and sometimes simply boiled. I can even recall that when I was a little girl, my grandmother used to go out in the rain during spring time to pick the freshest chicory she could find.
Today however, there is no need to hunt for chicory in the wild as it is becoming way more common to find this nutrient-packed vegetable also in the supermarkets. I can assure you that if you cook it properly, the taste is quite as good. In fact, raw chicory has a strong bitter and spicy flavour, but if you boil it for just a few minutes it becomes mild and delicious.
This recipe is a staple in my family and everyone loves it. Besides, it pairs the benefits of eating leafy vegetables with all the great distinctive ingredients used in the southern Italian cuisine like capers, anchovies in oil and chili flakes. And the best part? It takes just a few minutes to prepare.
As it has quite a powerful flavour, this side dish pairs perfectly with simple and healthy mains like grilled fish or steamed chicken. Moreover, it can also be reinvented as a great pasta sauce.
As a side note, if you like this recipe, but you cannot find chicory greens at your local grocery store, you can replace them with any kind of bitter leafy vegetable of your liking such as endive, escarole, radicchio or even dandelion leaves. In this case, however, I would suggest you to blanch the greens just for a few seconds instead of boiling them down or just skip boiling them altogether.
1large bunchchicory. You can also use endive, escarole, radicchio, dandelion leaves (around 1 pound)
2tbspextra virgin olive oil
1/4tsphot pepper flakes (optional)
4anchovy fillets in oil
1tbspbrined capers (if you use the salt-cured variety make sure to rinse them well)
Sea salt, to taste
Wash the chicory greens, cut into 2-inch pieces and cook in boiling unsalted water for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. **** If you are using endive, escarole, radicchio or dandelion leaves, cut into 2-inch pieces and add to boiling water for about 30 seconds or skip the boiling process altogether and just add raw greens to the frying pan.
Drain the chicory and rinse under cold water. Then, squeeze out the excess moisture using your hands.
In a large frying pan, add oil, garlic, hot pepper flakes and anchovy fillets. Stir for 30 seconds on medium heat until the anchovies dissolve and the garlic is starting to sizzle and turn slightly gold.
Add greens, raisins, pine nuts and capers. Toss gently for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add salt, to taste. As capers and anchovies are already salty you shouldn’t need much.