Cicoria and Pureed Fava Beans
The region of Apulia or Puglia, also known as the heel of the boot (when you think of Italy in the shape of a boot) has always had an agricultural vocation for its vast plateaus and sunny weather. Traditionally, Puglia produces wheat, excellent olive oil, and strong wines.
The food reflects these aspects, being one of the most delicious, authentic and renown as “cucina povera”, or peasant cooking.
The recipe that we will make today is simple, the ingredients are cheap and readily available – in Puglia. Still the result is astounding, with a powerful yet balanced taste of sweetness and bitterness, all seasoned with powerful extra virgin olive oil.
Again, as in most dishes from Southern Italy, the flavors are bold and fiery, as is the country and its people.
Cicoria is a green leaf vegetable, the closest thing that you can buy here in the US is Dandelion greens (from the French Dents de Lion = Lion’s teeth because of the shape of the leaves). In Italy there are many varieties, and my preferred one is the wild one, that as a kid I used to pick from the field during our hikes with my grandmother. It grows everywhere, I believe it is considered an invasive species, and it has a very distinctive bitter, woody taste, that somewhat tones down during the cooking process.
In Rome and southern Italy in general you will find cicoria as a side dish in all the menus of rustic Trattoria style restaurants. People are absolutely convinced that cicoria is a toccasana, a balm for the well-being of your body, and rightly so: cicoria – as all green leafy vegetables – contains a lot of fibers and very few calories (23 calories for 3oz!). It’s rich in minerals like potassium, magnesium, iron, selenium, and contains many vitamins. On top of that, it has digestive and detoxifying properties (as most bitter vegetables help the liver produce bile), is anti-inflammatory, and reduces bad cholesterol. Even the mouth hygiene benefits from it, as it has antibacterial properties.
Fava beans are also loaded with nutrients – but they are definitely richer in carbs and calories. They are used as a staple all around the world. In the Mediterranean basin though, some people are affected by a rare but serious genetic transmitted condition that can be triggered by different factors, one of which is eating fava beans. If you are not born with this condition, you can enjoy your fava beans often.
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For 4 Servings
1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons of EV Olive Oil
½ glass of white table wine
1 pint chicken stock preprepared (or vegetable stock)
1 cup rinsed blueberries
1 cup roasted chestnuts or more, chopped in big pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons gorgonzola cheese (optional)