Corfiots like their food spicy and this simple dish of stewed wild greens is no exception. I first tasted Tsigarelli in a local taverna, “O Yiannis,” located on a small side street just wide enough to accomodate one passing vehicle in a Corfu Town suburb known as Mon Repo. The taverna is definitely my favorite among all we’ve tried on the island. The taverna’s owner, Yianni, is a spirited Corfiot with a vibrant personality and perpetual smile that make everyone that enters his humble establishment feel like family.
The food at Taverna “O Yiannis” is fresh, traditional and always prepared with plenty of heart and soul. You can taste the pride and passion that Yianni and his staff possess in every bite of their Sofrito, Stifatho, Pastitsada, Soutzoukakia, roasted meats and, of course, their Tsigarelli.
Tsigarelli is quite simply tender wild greens–both bitter and sweet (i.e. swiss chard, dandelions, mustard greens and mache)–sauteed with onions, garlic, herbs (primarily fennel fronds) and olive oil and reddened with plenty of hot paprika or red chili pepper. The dish has been modified as of late with the addition of a bit of tomato. I stuck to the simplicity of the traditional Tsigarelli adding onion, garlic, fennel fronds, hot paprika and red pepper flakes to the Chicory greens I chose to use. This is a great side dish that goes well with virtually anything it is served with … You can even serve it over creamy polenta for a lighter main dish. Just make sure you have plenty of crusty bread on hand to mop up the sauce!
Τσιγαρέλλι — Tsigarelli
3 pounds Chicory (about 2 large heads)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons finely chopped fennel fronds
Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
Hefty pinch of cayenne pepper
Hefty pinch of paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant and translucent. Stir in the red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper and paprika and cook for a minute longer. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the chicory and fennel fronds, stirring to coat. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes or so. Stir in the salt and serve.