Being a vegetarian of Italian background I was stoked to discover an Italian dish that wasn’t meat (YAY). To the untrained eye, Chicory looks like any other flower. It’s actually quite beautiful, and quite good beneficial for your health!
Wild Chicory (in oil) is an old school dish traditionally consumed in Calabria. Positioned in the boot of Italy, Calabria is home to a varying landscape; a mixture of mountain ranges and the coast, (and also home to my grandpop.) Historically, this varied landscape meant that this area was prone to crop failure. So, the people of Calabria needed to plan ahead -so much so that they would prepare extra Chicory just in case of crop failure.
This preparation takes me back to my childhood, where I would go shopping with my Grandpop and be amazed and somewhat weirded out by the assortment of vegetables in jars. To me, it seemed that Italians could make a dish out of anything while wasting nothing in the process. This speaks to the frugal food culture which was engrained during the fascist reign of Mussolini.
So how do you make Chicory in oil? Well it’s pretty simple…as long as you’ve got 30-40 days to spare and don’t mind the bitter taste. Once you pick white Chicory, it must be blanched in water and vinegar to remove the bitter taste. It is then placed into glass pots, covered with oil and then sealed for 30-40 days.
If you can’t be bothered waiting 40 days, you can head to Mediterranean Wholesalers or Enoteca Sileno Italian Food and Wine Emporium. Or if you want a modern take on this dish, you could try Jamie Oliver’s caramelised chicory,or how about a leaf Chicory salad?
The possibilities are endless! Happy Eating!