If you were wondering what the red stuff was in your Italian Christmas dish, or New Year’s Eve recipe, you may find it was the red endive, or chicory, currently in season in Italy and used in various Italian recipes as a traditional product.
It gives a special touch to a dish, with its red colour appropriate for the season’s festivities.
It’s slightly bitter and crunchy and works well as a side serve to many dishes.
Italy has many types of red chicory, five of which have IGP classification.
The most precious is the late picked Treviso chicory, with long, narrow leaves, which is picked between December and February.
Treviso also has an early growing variety with wider leaves, that is picked between October and November.
There is also the red chicory of Castelfranco, with its yellow speckled leaves and delicate flavour.
The area of Chioggia also has its own variety, with a round tuft or head, while the variety from Verona has an oval shape.
If you want to try an unusual Italian seafood dish, try red chicory with swordfish pieces, adding some anchovies and a little garlic, parsley and white wine.
Start by slicing the anchovies and cooking with a little garlic, parsley and wine.
Wash the chicory and cut into strips, placing in an oven proof dish by alternating layers of chicory, swordfish pieces, and the anchovy sauce.
Cook in a very hot oven, at about 220 degrees, for four to five minutes.