Caesar Salad By Way of Chicory Obsession

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.

Best Broccoli Ever

A few weeks ago I hinted at the best broccoli recipe ever. It’s my husband’s favorite and takes a simple ingredient and elevates it for any type of eater (vegetarian, vegan, carnivore, etc). It’s a riff on Italian style cooking which uses great olive oil to enhance an inexpensive seasonal vegetable into a great side dish. This broccoli recipe can be substituted with asparagus, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccolini or any other hearty vegetable.



Best Broccoli Ever


1 head of broccoli

1 fresh small red chili

4 cloves of garlic

¼ cup of olive oil

½ Lemon

Kosher salt


Bring a small 8-10” saucepot with water to a boil. While the water is heating, prepare the broccoli by cutting off the hard end of the stem. Then slice broccoli flowers lengthwise and leave a lot of the stem on. The stems are full of flavor and have a great texture to contrast the head. Place in your serving plate or shallow bowl.


Slice the garlic very thin legnth-wise or just chop into large chunks. Chop the red chili the same way. Fill a mixing bowl with ice water and reserve. Then add kosher salt to the boiling water and add the broccoli for 4-5 minutes. Once it is just barely cooked through, drain into a colander and add to the ice water to stop it from still cooking. Once the broccoli is bright green and cool, drain the broccoli back in the colander.


Place the same saucepot back on the stove and turn on the heat. Once all the water is evaporated, add the olive oil, garlic, and chili. Cook on low heat swirling the pot until the garlic is golden brown. Careful not to let the garlic burn! This should take 60-90 seconds. Add the broccoli to the pot and toss in the garlic chili oil for 30 seconds, using tongs as needed. Squeeze the lemon on top and then plate into the shallow bowl or plate.


Ben's Famous Eggplant Parmigiana

Full disclosure, my husband is a chef. While he's now on the business side of the food world, he cooked professionally for many years in restaurants and has a few homestyle classics I am lucky enough to enjoy at home. One of them is eggplant parm. The first rule of eggplant parm in our home is Ben only makes it when we can't remember when the last time he made it! This way the meal remains a special treat. This recipe is not what I would call a weeknight staple as it is a bit complicated to make. Ben tries to make this recipe in the summertime since eggplants, tomatoes, and basil are flooding all the farmers markets. However, he also makes it with canned tomatoes in the winter and it is the perfect comfort food on a cold rainy night for a dinner party. While he's making the eggplant parm, I am on  salad duty. I always made a real "ceasar salad" alongside. This Italian American classic meal is a favorite we hope you'll share with your family and friends for years to come. Check out Ben's recipe below! 

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Eggplant Parmigiana

Serves 6-8

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 4 hours


2 large cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes (if you can, spend a little more for the good kind, it’s worth it)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 big cloves of garlic, sliced thin

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper

½ bunch of basil

3 lbs eggplant (any variety will do, but I prefer smaller ones if possible. More flavor and easier to work with)

3 large eggs

1 qt breadcrumbs (any brand works, but homemade breadcrumbs are amazing - recipe on the way)

2 cups canola oil

1 lb fresh mozzarella

6 oz parmigiano reggiano



Open the cans of whole peeled tomatoes into a large bowl, and squish the tomatoes between your fingers with clean hands until a chunky sauce is formed. Pour the crushed tomatoes into a large sauce pot, along with the olive oil, sliced garlic, a big pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and the basil (stem and all). Bring the sauce up to a simmer, put a lid on it, and let it do its thing for the next two to three hours, stirring and tasting occasionally as you go. After a couple of hours of low simmering, the sauce will be a rich red and smell amazing.



I know that home frying can be a little daunting, but shallow-frying is a good first step in that direction. While the sauce is cooking, slice the eggplant into 1/2" thick discs and transfer them to a large colander (strainer). Salt them liberally with kosher salt and let the bowl sit in the sink for 15 minutes. The salt will draw a good deal of moisture out of the eggplant, removing much of its natural bitterness and making them easier to fry. After 15 minutes, use a paper towel or clean kitchen towel to dry off the eggplant slices.

Pour the canola oil into a wide, heavy bottomed pan and heat over medium-high heat. The should be about ½” deep, depending on how wide the pan is. While the oil is heating, get your frying setup ready. Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk them until no strands remain. Place the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl. Working piece by piece, dip the eggplant in egg wash, dredge in breadcrumbs, and carefully place in the oil. Fry for about 1 minute on each side, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Once the pieces are done, carefully remove them from the pan and place them on a cooling rack, being mindful not to stack them so they don’t get soggy. You may have to replenish the oil and skim excess breadcrumbs throughout the frying process so the oil doesn’t taste burnt.


Assembly and Cooking

Heat your oven to 375F. Slice or tear the mozzarella into silver-dollar-sized pieces, and get a hand grater ready for the parmesan. Remove the basil stems from the tomato sauce (you can chop them up and put them back in or discard them at this point), and bring your fried eggplant, sauce, and cheeses to your prep area. In a large casserole dish, layer the ingredients as follows: tomato sauce on the bottom, eggplant, sauce, sliced mozzerella, shredded parmesan, eggplant, sauce, cheese... Keep this eggplant/sauce/cheese pattern going until you get to the top of the casserole dish. Finish with a generous helping of cheese on top. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove the foil and finish baking uncovered for another 15 minutes to get the top cheese nice and bubbly.

Make sure you let the eggplant parm rest for at least 10 minutes before serving! I know it will be tempting to cut right into it, but fresh out of the oven it will still be a bubbling cauldron of tomato sauce and melty cheese. Resting the parm will let it firm up and cool down just a little bit so that it’s easier to cut, serve, and eat. Bon appetito!