Chicory leaves look and taste very similar to dandelions. Infact I've just recently learned to tell them apart without the presence of the tell-tale yellow dandelion flower. If you look closely the leaves are a different shape, and chicory has hairs underneath the midrib, but as chicory gets older the leaves become more and more like dandelions, until the arrival of the lovely blue flowers.
However, I've decided it doesn't really matter, as both types of leaves work in the same type of recipes and if they are mixed that's fine aswell.
|Dandelion leaves on the left, chicory on the right.|
When the leaves are young they are really tasty in salads, but older leaves need to be cooked. Many Italians really like the bitter taste of these leaves. My husband loves a salad of just young chicory or dandelion leaves with some raw onion rings, salt, olive oil and lots of balsamic vinegar. I prefer just a few leaves mixed with blander salad leaves.
Dandelion and Chicory roots, dried and ground, can be used to make a coffee substitute in an emergency, but I would rather drink tea if that was the only option!
Everyone can recognise the yellow dandelion, but do you know what chicory flowers look like?
Until I became interested in wild plants, I actually thought they were cornflowers. When chicory looks like this it's too late to eat the leaves, unless they grow again in the autumn.
These photos of flowering chicory were taken in July.
It was very hot and the photos were taken very early
in the morning.
They were a beautiful, vibrant colour just after day-break, but quickly faded and after only a couple of hours disappeared until the following morning.
This is what I did with my bag of chicory;
Chicory Mixed Greens with Pancetta
500g young, mixed greens
150g pancetta/bacon (cubes or chopped)
2 cloves garlic (peeled)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Boil for 5 minutes in a large pan of salted water. If they seem to bitter change the water.
Drain and squeeze out excess water.
In a frying pan sautè the garlic in a couple of tablespoons of oil.
(I leave it whole and remove later. Don't let it burn).
Add the pancetta and sautè for a couple of minutes.
Add the greens and sautè. Add more oil if necessary.
Serve hot with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar.
Erbazzone with chicory
450/500g of ready made pastry.
( I used pasta brisée-2x 230g) but you can use anything or make your own)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
60g grated parmesan cheese
500g mixed greens
Follow the instructions as above with onions instead of garlic.You can add bacon/pancetta aswell, but I didn't.
After boiling chop the greens finely and mix with the onions and cheese. If the mixture is too wet, heat a little to dry out. Lay out the pastry oven tray lined with greaseproof paper. Press down the greens and lay out the other pastry sheet on the top. Here it's up to you what shape you decide to use or how to decorate or close the pie. I add a little olive oil and press down the edges. Prick/ stab all over. Brush with a little milk and cook in a preheated oven 190°C for 25 minutes or until golden.
Eat hot or cold.
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