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Sardinian Sauteed Wild Greens

This is a pretty simple yet satisfying way to cook wild greens. It is a Sardinian preparation called irvuzu, and the best version of this dish has a wide variety of greens, from wild fennel to dandelions to wild chicories and lettuces, escarole, broccoli raab, baby asparagus, etc.

You can buy a variety of greens, too, so no need to forage if you don’t want to. Just be sure to have variety: bitter greens, sweet fennel, mustardy turnip greens or broccoli raab, and the like.

The original recipe, which I found in Sweet Myrtle and Bitter Honey, one of the few Sardinian cookbooks in English, calls for pancetta — unsmoked bacon. I like it with smoky bacon better: The flavors are richer that way. But either pancetta or bacon will work here.

Serves 4-6

  • 2-3 pounds of mixed green things: chicory, dandelion, fennel, broccoli raab, mustard greens, thin asparagus, wild lettuces, etc.
  • 6-8 green onions
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 pound thick-cut bacon or pancetta, cut into chunks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

 

  1. Chop your green things into slightly larger than bite-sized pieces — remember they will shrink to bite-sized on cooking.
  2. Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil and blanch the veggies for 90 seconds. Remove and dunk in a bowl of ice water, then let drip dry in a colander.
  3. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the bacon or pancetta bits. Slowly render them out until crispy.
  4. Add the garlic and saute until it begins to color, then add the sugar and all the greens and turn the heat up to high. Toss to combine everything.  Stir-fry everything for 2-3 minutes — don’t let the veggies lose their bright color, so err on the short side of cooking. You are really just combining flavors, coating the veggies with the bacon fat and driving off moisture to concentrate flavors.
  5. If you want, you can get fancy and cook the onions, fennel and greens separate from each other and layer them in a large round cookie cutter, as I did in the photo. You’ll need to chop everything finer if you do. This makes the dish a lot more elegant, but is more work.  
  6. Serve with a grind of black pepper and a lemon wedge on the side for people to squeeze over the greens as they eat. Serve with either crusty bread, or, to be more authentic, pane carasau, a Sardinian flatbread. 

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