So this post is a bit full circle from why I started this blog. I started writing about farms and cooking more meals to inspire my friends, family, and Instagram community. What I mean by inspire is encourage people to get involved in their local food communities and connect with people who are a part of the circular food economy like chefs and farmers and seed growers and farm conservators and many more. Jason and Siri from Local Roots Farms are passionate about chicories and grow many varieties after years of research and studies and just plain old trial and error on their farm in Duvall, WA. They wanted to share their passion with Seattle and after hosting a smaller Radicchio celebration with friends and chefs at their farm, this year they launched a full on Sagra Di Radicchio aka “Chicory Week”, a weeklong celebration involving the top Seattle restaurants and other partners in an effort to showcase the delicious plant. When I heard about the event, I knew right away I wanted to attend. It was lovely to meet Jason and Siri, try all of the fruits of their labor, and eat so many savory bites using their chicories! I could not wait to get home and share it with you.
I’ve always had an affinity for bitter flavors. It started with endive. My mom loved the stuff and would use endive in salads for any holidays or dinner parties. Later, I learned to love fennel, embracing the anise flavor in the vegetable that would lead to learning all about amaro. Amaro is a liquor that ranges from very bitter to just a touch bitter and mostly sweet. Italians drink amaro after a heavy meal as a digestive. I would drink it with soda water at lunch as a “light mid-day cocktail” between work meetings. Seriously, try it — it tastes like coca-cola!
Fast forward to today and I am a full-fledged chicory fan. I use all different varieties from the very bitter Radicchio to the slightly sweet Puntarelle in salads, grilled over wood or coals, in soups, and other dishes, too. Chicories are delicious; and once you feel comfortable balancing the bitterness you’ll be a convert!
My favorite bite of the day was from Spinasse, an Italian restaurant with cuisine specific to Piedmonte. Spinasse has become a favorite restaurant of my husband and I. At the Sagra, they served a deconstructed Caesar salad - hard boiled egg, anchovy, lettuce tossed in a light vinaigrette, and big icy shavings of parmigiana cheese. There’s no better time than now to add my take of this salad. I won’t even try to remember all of the times I have made it, because it’s become such a favorite in our home. Use any chicories that are freshest, and ask your farmer his and her favorites too!
Caesar Salad, Kinda
Makes 4 servings
6 anchovies, good quality preferably packed in salt or oil
1 head of Castelfranco lettuce (or any mix of chicories)
2 eggs (the best quality you can afford)
1/2 TSP dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic
Parmigiana Reggiano (the best quality you can afford)
1/2 C olive oil
3 TB red wine vinegar
Start this recipe by adding the two eggs to a small saucepot and covering with water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and shut off the heat. Cover for 10 minutes, then remove the eggs and place into a small bowl with ice water. While the eggs are going, prepare your lettuce. Theres a great video on the right way to wash your lettuce here.
While the water is boiling, add two anchovies, a small pinch of salt, and garlic to your mortar and pestle and pound until a fine paste. Then add your dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. once it’s well mixed, add the olive oil little by little until it is a smooth dressing. Another video on how to do this here. Taste it for seasoning and add fresh black pepper and salt to taste.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the lettuces with the dressing with your hands. Make sure each piece of lettuce is very well covered in the dressing. Stack the lettuces on a large plate or shallow serving bowl, and top with the remaining four anchovies. At this point, peel your eggs and lightly toss with a little salt and pepper. Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and around the lettuces. For the final touch, using a vegetable peeler shave big slices of parmigiana on top of the salad. Be generous!
Enjoy with some crunchy bread, a bowl of soup, or just on its own.