Menu Inspiration of the Week: Mixed Chicories
The chicory family is large and diverse. Chicorium intybus, a group of perennial cultivated plants, developed from wild chicory. In old England the wild plant was called succory. In Italian and French, the moniker was barbe de capuchin and barbe di cappuccino, translating to “Capuchin monk’s beard”. Wild chicory was used as a vegetable and salad green in classical Greece and Rome, harvested young to avoid the bitterness found in more mature plants. Cultivation commenced in the 1600’s and today there are hundreds of permutations including Puntarelle, or “little points”, Sugarloaf, many radicchios including Tardivo, Variegata and Castle Franco. A large rooted variety was developed in Holland in the mid 1800’s, dried, ground and used as an alternate to coffee, which was just gaining popularity and which was quite expensive. To this day this ground chicory finds itself blended with coffee and consumed in France, Spain, and New Orleans in particular. Then there’s Witloof (white leaf), which we know in it’s sprouted form, Belgian Endive, born from harvested roots and cultivated in the dark. Chicory takes many forms, from broad and narrow leaved varieties to loose leaves to fully headed types. C. endivia is a kissing cousin to chicory, and includes Curly Endive, Escarole, and Frisee.
There’s chicory, and then there’s County Line Harvest’s mixed chicories, an enticing mix of 4-8 heirloom varieties commingling in one 5-pound, chef-friendly case. Most all of David’s chicories end up in salads. Their bracing bitterness is usually balanced with something sweet, one or several ingredients including, citrus, apples, pears, peppers, roasted beets, parsnips, yams, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, or either black Spanish or Watermelon radish. Also, a cheese and/or toasted nut for complimentary concord and texture play well in the salad bowl, and another protein shows up often, a favorite being bacon or pancetta with or without some of the fat used in the dressing. Cooking mellows chicory. A long, slow, vinegary braise creates a lush, soft, mellow dish, perfect finished with some combo of lemon juice, red chile flakes, garlic and oil. Talk about comfort food!
3 Food Questions
Weekly interview with local chefs, cheese mongers and farmers
County Line Farms, Petaluma, Thermal
Founded April 1st, 2000, no fooling!
Working with GreenLeaf since: 2000
Specialties: Baby mixed and Little Gem lettuces, chicory mix, baby beets, Tokyo turnips
Earliest Food Memory: Processed ham, American cheese and Miracle Whip on Wonder Bread. I can still taste that sandwich. How’s that for local and seasonal?!
Why Farming? Find me something else that stimulates my mind and body as much as farming and I’ll change careers.
Favorite mixed chicory recipe? If it were date night, my signature salad. Shredded mixed chicories with a medium boiled farm egg, Point Reyes Blue, and a simple vinaigrette. I’ll eat this for breakfast.
Biggest challenge? Making payroll every week. Farming is not for the faint of heart. It’s an endeavor; I feel like I’m raising a baby, really a toddler now. It’s very time consuming, especially with properties north and south now.
Farm to Table
Inspiration from local chefs
Working with GreenLeaf since: 1985 (San Tropez)
Earliest food memory?
As a child, going to my Uncle’s farm, milking cows, boiling the milk and getting to eat the cream on top. I also loved duck confit.
Mixed chicory salad fresh tarragon, chives, parsley, roasted “perfect blonde” almonds from Yuba City, dressed with a pear vinaigrette.
Favorite winter vegetable?
Brussels sprouts, home grown broccoli, and my kids love parsnips.
To stay fresh, current, and as I get older to keep up my energy. I’m exercising a lot and eating a lot of vegetables to stay fired up. I am so slim!
This week’s tidbit: Grooving with Growers
GOne potato, two potato….
French Fingerling Potatoes – Florence Fabricant in The Great Potato Book says: “One of the newer varieties in the rapidly expanding fingerling category is called the French fingerling, in a nod to the ancestry of the seed stock. It’s a plump elongated oval with a smooth red skin and light yellow flesh mottled and streaked with a hint of red that has a silky texture and a rich flavor with a hint of mineral. The starch content is medium to low, making it a lovely candidate to incorporate whole in recipes that give it a chance to absorb a sauce without falling apart.” Other fingerling varieties on hand include Red Thumb, Ruby Crescent, the new all red Amarosa, Banana, and purple Peruvian.
Mixed Marbles (a red, Banana fingering, and purple mélange) are lovely, and from T&D Willey Farms choose from both baby red and Yukon Golds, German Butterballs.
Last spud note: WA Yukon Gold season is winding down; market firming. Nascent CA crop is quality challenged, especially on AA size; an annual occurrence.