from vacanza to misticanza…

The last time I was in Rome, I’m sorry to say, I didn’t get out much. I had a 3-month-old baby on my hands, so my needs were very different from what they had been when I had lived there many years prior.

Lingering lunches? Not really. More like a sprint to the nearest forno, where I could get some amazing pizza that I would then consume standing up, precious porcini tumbling down my shirt and into the stroller (boy, did I get some grossed-out looks from those proper Europeans for that one). Daily window-shopping? Maybe, but at a way less leisurely pace, since the real point of my walk was to get a good, strong coffee at Sant’Eustachio, to keep me going until, you know, it was time to be awake for half the night.

But there was one trend across the city that I managed to spot, in restaurants and in supermarkets: Misticanza. I had seen the word years earlier to describe a mixed salad akin to mesclun mix, but now it was something else: cooked greens, of various sorts, all combined into one dish. Your misticanza might contain the leaves of chard and spinach, or sometimes chicory. Amazingly, whatever the mix, it was always tasty, whether drizzled with olive oil or sautéed with garlic and oil or just spritzed with the juice of a lemon wedge.

So what better option could there be, when you have a fridge full of CSA greens but no time or imagination for how to use them? Tamar Adler wrote in her lovely book about cooking all your produce the moment you get it home—with misticanza, you go one further and put all your cooked greens together.

Chop up all your spinach, kale, chard, dandelion and mustard greens, removing the stems if you want to emulate the elegance of modern Italian cooking, and leaving them on if you want to emulate the economy of old-fashioned Italian peasant cooking (I vote this way). Boil them until they’re tender, then strain, and store them in your fridge until you’re ready to use them. Then, whether you choose to drizzle them with olive oil, spritz them with lemon juice, or sautee them with loads of garlic, you’ve got a fabulous misticanza to round out any meal, from porcini pizza to roast chicken.


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