Cicoria Ripassata - So That's What You Do with Dandelion Greens
Updated: Jan 6, 2021
Dandelion Greens – you used only see them in the ethnic markets, in teas, and growing out of sidewalk cracks, now they’re everywhere!
What the heck is Cicoria?!?
I didn’t even know what dandelion greens were for the longest time. Until my soul sister, Alessandra, moved in with us and we started getting care packages from Italy sent to our home with bottles of wild-picked (by her grandma), home-cooked (by her mother) Cicoria.
In fact, I didn’t even know Cicoria was Dandelion Greens. Cicoria, pronounced “Chicoria,” sounded like Chicory and since I’d never seen Chicory, I assumed that’s what it was without knowing that Chicory was another name – ha ha – for dandelions. Anyway, I had never even seen Chicory in any of the markets I shopped at. I didn’t question it and didn’t care to, so long as this tantalizingly delicious dish kept arriving at our home on a regular basis.
Until, one day, when shopping at a local Persian market, said soul sister stopped dead in her tracks, mouth open, staring at these bundles of leaves. We couldn’t understand what they were called because the description was written in Farsi but she was dead certain these were the same leaves her Grandma collected. So, we stocked up and started making them ourselves.
Flash forward a year to 2011, when I was living in Washington, D.C., walking to the local bus stop and the first signs of spring were arriving – I see a weed growing out of the cracks in the cement with the exact same leaves that we saw bundled at the Persian market.
Dandelion?!? Dandelion!?! Could it be?? I snapped a photo, sent it to same said soul sister and called her even though it was approximately 5a.m. PST. I could believe I had been eating invasive, growing-in-cement-cracks weeds. Not only eating them, but loving every last minute of it.
I started having fantasies of picking them along the way to work and on the way home and cooking them the way we had perfected when I had still been in L.A. At least, until, the euphoria dissipated and I processed just how toxic those roadside dandelions probably were.
By the time I moved back to L.A. in 2012, wrapped my head around being a mother, and finally found the time to start thoughtfully cooking again (more than just the fastest thing to cook in the shortest amount of time), dandelion greens were everywhere – which is a good thing because I was really committed to eating organic and all the health food stores were carrying them.
Some Italian-Suggested ways to eat Cicoria/Dandelion Greens
So, before I give you the recipe, I wanted to offer up a few suggestions, from my Italian family, on how to eat this dish:
Contorno – as a Side
This is an easy one. All you have to do is follow the recipe below and use it as a side for your meal. Simple as that.
Cicoria Sul Pane – Spread on Bruschetta
A major English-language misnomer is to use the word “Bruschetta” for toasted bread with a cherry tomato-based topping.
There are two things that drive Italians insane about our adoption of the word, “Bruschetta”:
1) It is pronounced – Brus-ket-ta – NOT Brushetta.
2) “Bruschetta” means toasted bread, nothing less and nothing more. It does not, I repeat, does not include that cherry tomato-based topping. It does not include anything else. So, being that “bruschetta” is toasted bread, there are a million-and-one combinations.
Having gotten that out of the way, the next scrumptious way to eat dandelion greens is to make bruschetta and spread them on top.
Falloni Sabini – Calzone di Cicoria
One last suggestion is actually a recipe unto itself: Falloni – a type of calzone that comes from Sabina, a geo-historical region of central Italy, that overlaps with parts of modern-day Umbria, Lazio and Abruzzo.
Once you’ve made the dough, roll it out, stuff it with the Cicoria, seal it, and bake it! I promise, the recipe for this is coming soon (I will link to it when it is posted)!
Health Benefits of Dandelion Greens
One last quick point, I promise. I should clarify that, while I was oblivious to this plant for most of my life, the health field has known the benefits of dandelion greens for ages – you can find dandelion root in just about any tea that supports detox.
Dandelions contain diuretic and liver-detoxifying properties, and some research even examines its cancer-killing properties as well. And of course, it has been a staple in many ethnic food marts as well – Asian, Iranian, Indian…
Whew. I think I got everything out I wanted to say about dandelions and my journey in discovering them.
Servings: 4-6 (depending on the size)
Prep Time: 10 min (includes gathering ingredients)
Cook Time: 50 min (25 min to boil, 25 min to sauté)
Total Time: 60 min
Storage: Refrigerated airtight container for 2 weeks. Or, can and store up to 1 year (canning post coming soon – I will updated when posted)
5 bunches dandelion greens
6-8 garlic cloves
1 cup (235ml) white wine*
2 tbsp (27g) refined coconut oil
1 tbsp (17g) salt (for boiling)
¼ - ½ tsp salt (to taste)
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 tbsp (14g) high quality extra virgin olive oil (optional)
*If you are an alcohol-free home, you can replace the white wine with either apple cider or white wine vinegar. Just note that the flavors will be a bit more intense, so you can dilute the vinegar with some water.
1. Rinse dandelion greens.
2. Cut off the thickest part of the stem and discard.
3. Cut the remaining part of the leaf into three equal parts.
4. Place cut dandelion leaves in a large pot and fill with water and 1 tbsp of salt.
5. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 15 – 20 minutes, then drain. If you appreciate the bitterness, boil for less time, if you prefer less bitterness or are getting used to the taste, boil for longer.
6. Cut the garlic cloves into 2 to 3 pieces per clove, depending on their size.
7. Add 1 tbsp of the refine coconut oil to a large pan on medium-high heat.
8. Once the oil has melted, add the cut-up garlic cloves.
9. Once the garlic is golden brown and has released its flavor, add the dandelion greens, making sure to spread them out across the whole pan. I prefer to use a fork when cooking the greens (careful not to scratch my pan) because they tend to clump together and the fork pulls them apart so that they can get fully coated in the oily, garlicky goodness.
10. Sauté the greens for 5 minutes so some of the water in them can evaporate.
11. Add the salt and crushed red pepper flakes and wine, making sure the pan is still on medium-high heat.
12. Continue to sauté until the wine has evaporated and some of the greens are browning/caramelizing in the garlic.