Friday, November 6, 2009

Italian chicories in the garden

Before planting our vegetable garden, chicory to us was a coffee ingredient in New Orleans.   Little did we know that we've been eating chicory in its various forms for years.  Dandelion greens, radicchio, endive and escarole are members of the chicory family.  They vary in color, texture, and growth habit, but all chicories possess a wonderful bitterness and bite.  The chicory used to flavor coffee is actually the root of an endive plant, roasted and ground.

Chicories grow best in cool weather.  Too much heat turns them unpleasantly bitter so in Houston we grow chicories in the autumn and spring.  Chicories are high in folate, vitamins A and K, and fiber.  Italian cooking embraces chicory in its many forms, and we chose several varieties offered by Seeds from Italy. This website has an impressive selection, and the seeds arrive in big, glossy, colorful packets with multilingual descriptions and cute pictographs demonstrating planting instructions.  We're growing Catalogna Punterelle, Barba di Cappuccino, and Radicchio di Castelfranco to name just a few.  

David wanted to add chicory to a foccacia featuring traditional Italian ingredients:  potatoes, pine nuts, gorgonzola dulce and rosemary.  Lots of strong flavors, so the question was which chicory would work the best.  We narrowed it down to Puntarelle or Barba di Cappuccino because they have matured the fastest in the garden.  The Puntarelle is long and narrow, mostly stem and very little leaf.  The Barba di Cappuccino has big serrated leaves with a thicker center stem.  We conducted a quick taste test and decided that the Puntarelle had just the right amount of bite for our foccacia.  We plucked rosemary from the garden, and its fragrance was almost overwhelming.  With the puntarelle, gorgonzola, and rosemary, this foccacia is definitely not for the timid.  As Nonna would say, devi accettare l'amaro insieme al dolce (you have to learn to take the bitter with the sweet). 

Foccacia with Catalogna Puntarelle, Fingerling Potatoes, Gorgonzola Dulce, Rosemary and Pine Nuts

1                     foccacia dough, rolled out
                       (we used our pizza dough recipe but doubled the
                       yeast and rolled it out thicker than for pizza)            
3 or 4              fingerling potatoes
1             Tbs  olive oil
1/4-1/2   cup   gorgonzola dulce, broken into small pieces
1/2          cup   puntarelle
1/2         Tbs    rosemary, chopped
                       sea salt and black pepper
1 1/2       Tbs   pine nuts

  1. Cook potatoes in gently boiling, salted water partially covered until they start to get soft, 10-15 minutes.  Drain immediately and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.  When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/4" thick slices.
  2. Blanch puntarelle in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and run under cold water.  Roughly chop or keep whole if small.
  3. Heat oven to 325 and bake pine nuts on a sheet pan until they start to darken and become fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove from oven to cool.
  4. Assemble foccacia.  First brush crust with the olive oil.  Then spread around half the cheese.  Then add potatoes, then puntarelle, rosemary, and rest of cheese.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on top to taste.  Do NOT add the pine nuts at this stage.
  5. Bake at 450 on a pizza stone (if you have one) until crust is golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes.  We have two ovens, so we preheat this oven for one hour before using so the stone gets hot. 
  6. Remove from oven, sprinkle pine nuts on top.
Foccacia with Puntarelle, Gorgonzola Dulce, Rosemary & Pine Nuts made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today! The Foodbuzz Top 9 is a photo-driven collection of top-buzzed posts within the Foodbuzz community.  Congratulations again, and thanks for being a part of Foodbuzz!  Cheers, The Foodbuzz Editorial Team


  1. I never saw that kind of potato before! Lovely focaccia.

  2. Delicious! How about sending me a slice! Yum!

  3. I'm going Italian today too. But that looks amazing, like everything else you've made! :)

  4. I've never thought about the varieties or usefulness of chicory before... this is great!

  5. Beautiful foccacia! The bread that eats like a meal, mmm.

  6. Hmm Foccacia with Bite! Very nice ;)

  7. Got so jealous reading about your rosemary... I want the smell of garden-fresh herbs to follow me everywhere!

    Love the pine nuts in the picture. Bet they added a really nice crunch too.

  8. This sounds absolutely wonderful. I'm so jealous!

  9. sounds great, maybe i'll try it on my italian parents as they sure won't eat any indian food.

  10. There is a gourmet bakery on my block....they have a pizza similar to this is delicious, but yours actually looks even better!! The addition of cheese and pine nuts must be killer!

  11. This picture is so delicious I want to eat the screen! Can't wait to try this Congrats on Top 9.....beautifully done love this 1 :)

  12. I'm not a great fan of most forms of chicory (I'll make an exception for puntarelle) but this looks good ...

  13. This looks so deliciously good! You're so good. Cheers.

  14. i'm such a huge fan of foccacia and yours looks simply divine. love the addition of pinenuts!

  15. I'm envious of your green thumb---this foccacia sounds delicious!


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