Thursday, July 31, 2008
There’s something bittersweet about discovering something new. Bitter because just as I thought my knowledge of Italian ingredients had reached a certain level, I discover something I didn’t even know existed; and sweet because just as I thought my knowledge of Italian ingredients had reached a certain level, I discover something I didn’t even know existed.
Indeed, this was the conundrum realized upon me with a visit to the revered Birri Bros. kiosk at the Jean Talon Market last weekend.
Gazing at all of the vibrant leafy greens, I noticed something that looked like a cross between rapini and cavolo nero.
Spigarello—or spigariello as it’s known in Italy—is a relatively unknown leafy green grown by some local farmers such as the Birri family. Some cultivators consider it to be akin to wild broccoli.
I was told to treat spigarello much the same way I would rapini. Not being a fan of rapini this wasn’t a great incentive to take it home, but I was assured the taste of spigarello was quite different. Well, it wasn’t. It’s just as bitter and the stems are quite fibrous; wonderfully suited to clean out your colon.
If you enjoy bitter, leafy greens you’ll enjoy spigarello. Give me some chicory or Swiss chard any day.
1 bunch of spigarello
4 large cloves of garlic
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil (use the good stuff here)
Kosher salt or fleur de sel
Red pepper flakes
Juice from ¼ lemon (optional)
-Wash the spigarello thoroughly in cold water. Cut off the stems and discard. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spigarello. Blanch the greens for 3 minutes; if you want them to keep their bright, green color, drop them in ice water, or, if you don’t care what shade of green they are, just drain them in a colander.
-Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium low heat. Add the whole cloves of garlic to the oil and let them brown slowly. You want to flavour the oil here and not cook the garlic too fast. Once the garlic cloves are golden brown, remove them with a slotted spoon and reserve for later.
-Turn your heat up to medium and add the spigarello, season with the salt and red pepper flakes and sauté for about 5 minutes.
-Turn off the heat, add the reserved garlic, lemon juice and toss it all together. Serve with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some more salt if needed.
Note: You can use this recipe for any leafy green. You can also incorporate the greens with pasta. I find that if you add enough bacon, sausage, and parmigiano cheese to the pasta, the greens are actually not bad.