Puntarelle cicoria asparago, is a lovely chicory hailing from where my roots were laid down hundred’s of years ago in Northern Italy. One has to wonder, if my love of puntarelle is coincidental or is it just an example of my heritage screaming?
Love the heirlooms…
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, we have an organic farm in California. Our first land tenant was a gift to my world. He was a 40 something- year- old hippy, hailing from the biggest coastal hippy town known to the state of California. He was into growing heirloom varietals of vegetable. Andy is a well connected farmer, and extremely admired by the top Bay Area Chef’s. In particular, Chef’s and restaurants who were a part of the ‘farm to table’ movement.
Restaurants were in search of locally sourced, special vegetable varietals. Normal in other parts of the world, just not yet standard in ours. Chef’s were his enthusiasts. Often, Chef’s would do day trips to the farm, and walk and learn the fields as presented by Andy. It was all a truly remarkable and exciting experience. It was a project that made you feel like you were a part of something special. Food.
Trust your farmer.
Certainly, when Andy planted something in our field, I knew it was going to be special-no, I knew it was going to be out of this world. As was the case of this lovely ancient varietal of chicory, Puntarelle. Odd in appearance, this vegetable looks like a cross of many sorts, all mashed into one. Somehow, it has stalks of asparagus, and the tips of asparagus. Thus resulting in the name ‘puntarelle’=little tips in Italian. But, puntarelle also has characteristics of dandelion greens, or arugula. I think a tad similar to both those greens in taste. Plus, it can be served either cold in salad form, or warm & lightly sauteed.
I opted for the saute, as I had it paired to be a great companion along side my artichoke. As it happened, I had some shiitake mushrooms laying around too. It’s winter. Why not make a great combination of two strong winter protectors. As shiitake are antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and have too many health benefits to mention. Concluding that this flavorful fungi is an extremely respected immune booster. Great for the ills of winter.
Forging a healthy dish
In the same vein, puntarelle is dynamic for digestion. Northern Italian cuisine (particularly in Rome) use this chicory as a digestive aid. Often served as an in-between salad course while consuming heavy, rich meals. As puntarelle stimulates bile production, and supports a gentle digestion process. In short, why not?
Sometimes, regardless of how the vegetable may appear, you just need to get in there and try it out. I found that my chicory saute was delicious and was well complimented. Served together with the purple Italian artichoke making it a very Italian day. All inspired by its regional veg. Farm to table indeed.
Puntarelle, or cicorio asparago
- 1 head puntarella chicory
- 1 large onion
- 1 handful shiitake mushrooms
- 1-2 TBS olive oil
- rinse the puntarelle well, in between the leaves and cut the base off
- you'll see the hollow base. I discard it, however if you'd like to dice and add, you can also opt to do that.
- rinse well. saute onion and throw in shiitake. Add the diced puntarelle. Put the lid on the pan, let saute for a few minutes, then turn heat off. Take off hot oven plate, and let sit with the lid on until ready to serve
- I served sauteed puntarelle with a steamed artichoke and risotto