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Spring on the table: bitter herbs – Italian Cuisine

At the beginning of spring the bitter herbs arrive. Once much loved in the kitchen, today they are a bit snubbed. And it's a shame because they are rich in healthy properties. They stimulate the work of the liver, have a strong potential for detoxification and improve bowel function. Good both cooked and raw

In the culinary traditions of spring bitter herbs occupy an important role. Taken to the table on the occasion of the Jewish holiday of Pesach, which celebrates the liberation of slavery and the escape from Egypt, they accompanied the unleavened bread, prepared quickly, without leavening, and they were the symbol of bitterness and difficulty. Harvested in the meadows during the spring, they are rich in healthy properties, but according to some research their consumption is decreasing, surpassed by the exuberant presence of sweet taste, which today we use in excessive quantities. This is why rediscovering the taste of bitter herbs constitutes a benefit for well-being and the palate.

Discovering bitter herbs

Towards the end of winter, when the snow melts and the first new shoots are born in the meadows, bitter herbs appear. To be consumed cooked or raw, are valuable for the purification of the organism. Know the recipe of Neapolitan escarole? Thanks to the addition of olives, raisins, walnuts and anchovies, they whet the appetite with an unmistakable scent and can also be used for the preparation of the famous stuffed pizza. The herbs, together with the seasonal vegetables or the cheese, constitute the ingredient always used for rustic, savory and stuffed pies for tortelloni or ravioli. In fact, throughout Italy, the stuffed egg pasta represents an ancient tradition: it seems that the ravioli with herbs, to be prepared with ricotta, were already known in the Middle Ages, later becoming the lean dish prepared for Good Friday.

bitter herbs

Benefits of herbs

They stimulate the work of the liver and the process of detoxication, improve bowel function and help burn fat. Eating herbs such as chicory and chicory, black cabbage, endive, chicory and Catalonia regularly prevents seasonal ailments and strengthens the immune system. Excellent in soup, blanched or sautéed in a pan with a drizzle of raw oil, they become a simple and nutritious side dish. Avoid keeping the herbs too long because the leaves tend to perish quickly: alternatively, you can boil them in salted water and freeze some portions ready for use when you're in a hurry.

Recipes with bitter herbs

A famous dish of Roman cuisine is the salad of puntarelle, which is prepared with the catalonia herringbone, garlic, oil, vinegar and anchovies. Even the dandelion can be eaten raw: all you have to do is choose the softest leaves and season with a drizzle of oil, lemon and a sprinkling of pepper, to taste. Bring energy to the table and a touch of liveliness: plants like nettle and chicory are delicious as a condiment for pasta and velvety, but also in omelette. Research shows that we are addicted to the sweet taste, predominant in our usual diet, while bitterness tends to disappear, a declining food habit, from which imbalances can arise, as well as difficulties in the liver and gall bladder. An excellent opportunity to give the welcome to spring rediscovering the pleasure of a natural diet, rich in nutrients and fresh simplicity.

Rocket, bitter salad with many virtues that conquers everyone – Italian Cuisine

Until the 1980s it was one vegetable humble and unpretentious. Then it became "Trendy" and soon it became so ubiquitous as to transform the "Arugula" in an emblem of Italian cuisine known throughout the world. "Resized" excesses of some years ago, when there was no dish in which it was not inserted, today the rocket salad still remains one of the most popular "salads", so much so that every year the Italian spend over 3 million euros to buy it. And the first rocket could soon arrive protected from the EU: it is the one cultivated in the plain of the Sele who requested the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). From this area of ​​Salerno comes the 73% of all the rocket produced in Italy: 400 thousand tons per year, purchased from over 18 million of consumers and 40% destined for theexports. To confirm that the "arugula" also likes out of theItaly.

The bitter that conquers
But why is rocket so successful? For many reasons. The first is the flavor: its bitter note gives a decisive touch to the "usual" mixed salads, manages to "degrease" meat dishes (as shown by a great classic such as bresaola with rocket and grain), contrasts in a very pleasant way the sweetness of the fresh cheeses (an example: the piadina with stracchino or squacquerone and rocket), and it ennobles even the simplest of Capri or pizzas. Beyond taste, there are many others good reasons to choose the rocket. Like the environmental ones: compared to others crops, requires less water and fewer treatments in the field. And also on the front nutritional offers many benefits.

Many virtues (often unknown)
If the science today it has not yet confirmed those effects aphrodisiacs that they attributed the ancients, however it brought to light other properties of the rocket. Consuming this salad with a slightly taste spicy many benefits are obtained: being rich in minerals, of vitamins and di fibers, has a diuretic, mineralizing, anti-aging and detoxifying effect. Between vitamins stand out TO, precious for the health of the eyes, and the C, which boosts the immune system and is antioxidant. This last effect is enhanced by the presence of chlorophyll, which fights free radicals, in addition to favoring the production of Red blood cells. Instead among the minerals stands the potassium : how many know that a pound of rocket contains more than the same amount of banana (470 and 350 mg respectively)? The rocket can even contain twice as much footballof milk, but the high presence of phytates reduces its absorption, making it less available for l'body . In any case it can be considered an aid to reach the daily doserecommended of this important mineral. Like all vegetables with taste bitter, also the rocket is beneficial for the liver : favors the release of a greater quantity of bile and facilitates the elimination of salts that could determine obstructions or liver fatigue. The effect detoxalso extends to the intestine: being rich in a prebiotic fiber, theinulin, counteracts the proliferation of bad bacteria that favor, even the increase of weight. All with very few calories : only 28 per ounce.

A wild ingredient (even in a sweet version)
Visas i benefitsof the rocket, it is worth consuming more often . Which is not at all difficult (or unpleasant) since it is an ingredient jolly which can be added to many recipes, from salads to pasta or spelled, with sandwiches. It is very pleasant combined with vegetables and sweet tubers, like carrots, peas and potatoes. Freshly cooked it is perfect on carpaccio and salads, strips of meator fish, and is enhanced by a lemon and pepper vinaigrette White , or with a sauce of yogurt and garlic. The rocket can also be used as a basis for an unusual pesto and for detox smoothies. Try the centrifuged obtained with 2 handfuls of rocket, 2 failures of shoots of wheat and two oranges. To increase its effects benefits on the line and on the intestine the rocket is consumed along with foods rich in probiotics like fermented milks: so the number of bacteria increases "Good" and its effectiveness is strengthened. A fresh and original idea? There fruit saladof watermelon and rocket to be seasoned with lemon, mint and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

Manuela Soressi
March 2019