Cicoria selvatica ripassata.——————————
This time of year, if you were to drive around Italy, you might find yourself passing fields full of women bent over cutting what may appear to be grass. Their instruments? A simple serrated knife from the kitchen and a plastic bag. I’ll never forget my first visual, and the moment I asked Riccardo what all of these women in aprons might be possibly doing. I assure you, it can be quite a peculiar sight. What they were searching for is wild chicory aka Italian dandelion. It’s a bitter and grassy green that has purifying and detoxifying effects and is known to support immunity, digestion, arthritis pain, heart disease and weight loss. Nonna has some in her garden, but went out into the fields with our next door neighbor aka “zia” the other day to top up on her stash. She made sure to make a point of the lengths she went to in order to secure one of our favorite “wild” vegetables. As a Mom who is always preparing food for others, it is nice to sit back and have someone cook for and “mother” me. Cicoria is typical of the local Roman influenced cuisine and if you ever see it on a menu, make sure not to pass it by. Nonna boils the greens, squeezes the water out, warms a clove of garlic and some dried red pepper in olive oil and passes them in the pan in a perfectly simple way that I can’t seem to replicate no matter how I try. This method can be applied to any bitter green and you’ll find they make a great accompaniment to just about any dish. Get your spring on with some bitter greens, they might not turn out like Nonna’s, but it is definitely worth giving it a try.