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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for The Nibble

TIP OF THE DAY: Hot Cross Buns For Easter

hot-cross-buns-6-hotbreadkitchen-230r

Homemade hot cross buns. Photo courtesy
Hot Bread Kitchen.

 

With Easter a week away, you can start baking the seasonal treat, hot cross buns.

The first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” appears in 1733. A sweet yeast bun made with raisins or currants, the cross on top was originally made with knife cuts in the dough. Over time, icing was piped over the cuts.

The cross symbolizes the crucifixion, and the buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Actually, they are believed to predate Christianity: Similar buns were eaten by Saxons in to honor Eostre, the goddess of spring.

In their ancient pagan culture, the cross is believed to have symbolized the four quarters of the moon. Eostre is probably the origin of “Easter.” Many pagan holidays were ported into Christianity in its early days, to encourage pagans to convert to the new faith.

You don’t have to wait for Good Friday to enjoy hot cross buns. They’re too delicious to save for one day of the year. While Good Friday—this year, April 3rd—is National Hot Cross Bun Day, we’re giving you the heads up.

If you don’t celebrate Easter, go back to the roots of this recipe and celebrate spring!

This recipe, from the California Raisin Marketing Board, adds a twist to the traditional recipe: The icing is flavored with lemon, adding a tart counterpoint to the straight sweetness.

RECIPE: HOT CROSS BUNS

Ingredients For 18 Buns

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110°F to 115°F)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins or Zante currants
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten and diluted with 1 teaspoon water
  • Lemon icing (recipe below)
  •  
    For The Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon water
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SCALD the milk, stir in the butter and cool the mixture to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in warm water.

    2. SIFT together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in the raisins until well coated. Stir in the eggs and the cooled milk and yeast; blend well.

    3. TURN the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.

    4. PUNCH down the dough, pinch off pieces and form smooth, round balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Place the balls of dough on a greased baking sheet about 2-inches apart. Brush each bun with the diluted egg yolk. Cut a 1/2-inch deep cross in the center of each bun with a greased scissors. Let the buns rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes. While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

    5. BAKE for 8 to 10 minutes or until the buns look lightly browned. Cool on wire racks, about 5 minutes.

    6. MAKE the icing: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. Pipe the icing to make a cross on each bun.

     

    Hot Cross Buns

    If you want to enjoy the hot cross buns as toast, leave off the icing. Photo © Woodsy | Fotolia.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Modern Black Forest Cake

    National Black Forest Cake Day is March 28th, but we’re far from cherry season in the U.S.

    While you may still be able to find some fresh cherries, shipped from some far-away orchard overseas, consider this modern approach to Black Forest Cake by one of our favorite bloggers, Vicky of Stasty.com.

    It includes a garnish of cherries dipped in white chocolate and coated with popping candy. Call it modern Black Forest Cake.

    If you’re up for making it, here’s the recipe.

    Otherwise, head for our classic Black Forest Cake recipe. If it’s for an audience of adults only, use lots of Kirschwasser (clear cherry brandy—you can substitute regular brandy).

    The Black Forest region of southern Germany is known for its sour Morello cherries and for the Kirschwassermade from them. Hence, the inspiration for this old-fashioned classic:

    Yummy chocolate cake with cherries and whipped cream.

     

    black-fores-nouvelle-stasty-230

    A modern take on Black Forest Cake. Photo courtesy Stasty.com.

     

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Kurobuta Ham

    kurobuta-bone-in-snakeriverfarms-230

    Ham doesn’t get any better than this Kurobuta. Photo courtesy Snake River Farms.

     

    If you’ve been thinking about a juicy Easter ham gracing your table next week, there’s still time to order the best.

    In our opinion, that’s a Kurobuta (koo-row-BOO-tuh) ham from Snake River Farms. We’ve order at least one each year, and we never cease to be very, very happy.

    Kurobuta ham has been called the world’s best ham. Made from pure-bred Berkshire pork, it’s also known as the Kobe beef of ham, because of the fine intramuscular marbling that makes the meat melt-in-your-mouth tender.

    How good is this ham? Succulent beyond expectation with a perfect smoke and impeccable seasoning, subtle notes of clove and other spices caressing one’s tongue.

    And the most celestial aroma! We were truly sad when the last bite was gone.

    Our butcher, one of New York’s finest, already carried the Wagyu beef (an American-bred Kobe style) from Snake River Farms, but not the Kurobuta ham. After we shared some of our Kurobuta with him, he became an instant fan and a wholesale client.

     

    We couldn’t be happier about that. Now, when we have a hankering for a great piece of ham, we just have to go downtown to Pino’s to pick it up.

    All you have to do is head to SnakeRiverFarms.com or phone 877.496.4220.

    And if you’re already set for Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are coming up soon! For lovers of fine food, a Kurobuta is a memorable gift.

    A final comment: Kurobuta ham isn’t a luxury: It’s a necessity!

    HAM FACTS & FUN

  • The cuts and types of ham.
  • The history of ham.
  • Ham and ham glaze recipes.
  • Ham trivia quiz #1.
  • Ham trivia quiz #2.
  •  
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Decaf Coffee Facts

    According to the National Coffee Association, 10% of coffee drinkers in the U.S. opt for decaf. Counter Culture Coffee, a coffee house in New York City, reports that 18% of its coffee sales come from decaffeinated coffee.

    There are good things about decaf, and less good. First, the good: In addition to avoiding jitters and helping you get to sleep, decaf in general is better for your health*. Here’s some reporting from Diana Villa at Care2.com. It’s not a comprehensive discussion, but we offer it as a starting point to those who wonder if decaf might be better for them.

    Decaf coffee is good for your liver.

    In a study of more than 28,000 participants over 10 years, one study found that people who drink at least three cups of coffee a day had lower levels of four liver enzymes often linked to damage and inflammation.
     
    Decaf coffee reduces diabetes risk.

       

    caffe-americano-black-filicorizecchino-230

    At least one in 10 Americans opt for decaf. Photo courtesy Filicori Zecchini.

     
    In another study, compared with people who drink no coffee, those who drank six cups of regular coffee a day had a 33% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. But those who drank one cup of decaf per day had a 6% reduction in type 2 diabetes risk.
     
    Decaf coffee cuts prostate cancer risk.

    In a study of 47,911 men by the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that those who consumed six or more cups of coffee a day—regular or decaf—had an 18% lower risk of developing prostate cancer, and were 60% less likely to die of it. The results suggest that it’s the coffee antioxidants, not the caffeine, that offer the protection.
     
    *This article is not a medical advisory; people with certain conditions or the potential to develop them should restrict caffeine. Discuss your caffeine intake with your healthcare provider.

     

    heart-design-cappuccino-filicorizecchini-230

    Decaffeinated coffee has more benefits than simply avoiding the jitters. Photo courtesy Filicori Zecchini.

     

    Now for the caveats:

    Decaf doesn’t mean caffeine-free.

    According to FDA regulations, coffee must have 97% of the original caffeine removed in order to be labeled as decaffeinated. If you drink five to ten cups of decaf a day, you can still be consuming the caffeine equivalent of a cup or two of regular coffee.
     
    The amount of caffeine in decaf coffee varies significantly.

    While a cup of regular coffee usually contains about 100 mg of caffeine, a 2007 Consumer Reports test of 36 popular brands found some cups of decaf that had more than 20 mg of caffeine. In this study, a cup of decaf from Dunkin’ Donuts had 32 mg of caffeine!
     
    Decaf might raise your cholesterol.

    According to the American Heart Association, decaffeinated coffee may raise your LDL [bad] cholesterol. Researchers tracked three groups of participants: those who drank three cups of regular coffee a day, those who drank three cups of decaf, and those who drank no coffee. Three months later, the decaf group alone experienced an 8% spike in apolipoprotein B, a component of LDL cholesterol.

     

    Not all decaf is created equal.

    There are different ways to decaffeinate coffee; some use chemical agents. Look for a Swiss Water Process or a brand that uses the CO2 method to decaffeinate. These two are also the only certified-organic methods to decaffeinate.

    And now, it’s time for our first cup of coffee of the day. We’re going for an espresso, caffeinated.
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Use Fresh Spring Peas

    Lovers of green peas (also called English peas and garden peas), you’re in for a treat. Spring is the season.

    It’s time to serve sides of fresh-steamed green peas and make some delicious fresh pea soup.

    But what else should you be doing with these bright green jewels? Their sweet flavor and bright color can grace your table in so many other ways.

    You can use almost any cooking method, from boiling, braising or microwaving, to sautéing, steaming and stir-frying. Add them raw to salads and pop them into your mouth as a snack.

    They take only a few minutes to cook. In fact, you need to watch them to avoid ending up with mushy peas (if this happens, make a quick pea purée; and if they’ve lost their bright hue, add a teeny drop of food color). We aim for “al dente.”

    Create recipes with these flavor accents:

  • Cured meats: bacon, chorizo, pancetta, prosciutto, smoked ham
  • Fresh herbs: basil, chervil, dill, mint, tarragon
  •    

    English-peas-3-thechefsgarden-230w

    Fresh picked and divine. Photo courtesy The Chef’s Garden.

  • The onion group: chives, garlic, green onions, leeks, ramps (spring onion), shallots; red, yellow or white onions
  • Proteins: chicken, duck, lamb, fish (especially cod and, salmon), seafood (especially scallops), tofu
  • Spring produce: asparagus, fava beans, fennel, fiddlehead ferns, Meyer lemon, morels, mustard greens
  •  
    We can’t think of anything more delicious than fresh peas with asparagus, fiddleheads, morels and ramps—or as many of these as you can get hold of—sautéed with garlic in olive oil. Garnish with a chiffonade of fresh mint.

    Don’t dally: The season is short! For inspiration, here are just ways to use the bounty of fresh peas.
     
    GREEN PEAS AT BREAKFAST

  • In an omelet
  • As a side with fried, poached or scrambled eggs
  • Atop Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
  • In a green smoothie
  •  
    GREEN PEAS AT LUNCH

  • In macaroni, potato or rice/grain salad
  • In a green salad or Greek salad*
  • Pea soup (try a spring recipe, with fresh mint)
  • Spicy fresh pea salad (recipe)
  •  
    Plus:

  • As a snack, raw
  •  
    *Romaine, bell pepper, red onion and feta, with a fresh dill garnish. Add some lemon zest to the vinaigrette.

     

    ricotta-pea-toast-chalkpointkitchen-230

    Easy, peasy: an appetizer or snack of crostini
    with ricotta and fresh peas. The recipe is below. Photo courtesy Chalk Point Kitchen |
    NYC.

     

    GREEN PEAS AT DINNER

  • Asian style: blanched or sautéed with ginger; then tossed with a soy, wasabi, ginger and garlic marinade
  • Bibb or butter lettuce salad with radish and green onion (scallion)
  • Blended half-and-half with cooked rice or other grain, topped with grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Spring pea risotto, with pancetta or bacon plus garlic and onion
  • Cooked in olive oil and stock (recipe)
  • Pasta, especially with a white or olive oil sauce (add some prosciutto, bacon or a few grilled shrimp)
  • Pea & mint soup
  • Pea pesto, as a sauce or dip (recipe)
  • Pea purée as a side
  • Quickly sautéed in olive oil or steamed and tossed with butter
  •  

    RECIPE: GREEN PEA & RICOTTA TOAST

    Enjoy this for breakfast, as a first course or a snack. We chose a rustic Italian loaf with sesame seeds, but any peasant bread will do.

    Ingredients

  • Rustic bread loaf
  • Ricotta cheese (see if you can find it freshly made, at a cheese store or Italian market)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Green peas
  • Optional: lemon zest
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garnish: baby arugula, pea shoots, microgreens or sprouts
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STEAM the peas to al dente and let cool. Combine the ricotta with salt, pepper and lemon zest to taste. Stir in peas to taste (few or many).

    2. TOAST the bread and slice as desired (depending on the diameter of the loaf, cut the toast into manageable pieces).

    3. SPREAD toast with the pea-ricotta mixture. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Garnish and serve.
     
    HOW TO BUY & STORE FRESH PEAS

    Buying Fresh Peas

    For the best flavor, choose small peas. They’re younger, sweeter and more tender than large ones. Look for medium-size pods that are firm and green, with no yellowing. Break open a pod and check the peas. They should be small, bright green and firm. Taste the peas in the pod: They should be tender and sweet.

    Freshness counts. As with corn, once picked the peas’ high sugar content begins to convert to starch. Don’t pay for mature peas. You might as well use frozen peas.

    Don’t pay extra for shelled peas. You don’t know how fresh they are; and since you aren’t shelling peas day in, day out, it’s a fun activity.
     
    Storing Fresh Peas

  • Store the pods in the crisper drawer of the fridge in a plastic storage bag. Use them within two days.
  • Once they’re shelled, the best way to store peas is to freeze them. First blanch them for a minute or two in boiling salted water and then shock them in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking and maintain ther bright color. Drain and freeze them in freezer storage bags for up to six months.
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Spinach Day

    Popeye may have enjoyed his spinach straight from the can, but for today, National Spinach Day, we can come up with 20 better suggestions.

    BREAKFAST

  • Spinach omelet or fritatta (recipe)
  • Eggs Benedict With Spinach (recipe)
  •  
    DIPS & SPREADS

  • Green Mayonnaise (Julia Child’s recipe)
  • Spinach Dip With Walnuts (recipe)
  • Spinach Pesto (substitute spinach for the basil in this recipe)
  • Warm Crab & Spinach Dip (recipe)
  • Warm Spinach & Mascarpone Dip (recipe)
  • 13 Ways To Use Spinach Dip Or Spread
  •  
    LUNCH & FIRST COURSES

  • Curried Spinach Tart (recipe)
  • Grilled Cheese With Spinach (recipes)
  • Mac & Cheese With Spinach (recipe)
  • Spanakopita (Greek spinach pie—recipe)
  •    

    spinach-mascarpone-dip-vermontcreamery-230

    A warm spinach dip, creamy with mascarpone cheese. Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.

     

    beet-spinach-apple-salad-butterball230

    Beet, spinach and apple salad. Photo courtesy Butterball.

     

    MAINS

  • Pasta With Spinach: penne pasta with a garnish of fresh spinach leaves and cherry tomatoes (recipe), bow tie pasta with chicken and spinach (recipe) or cheese tortellini with spinach (recipe)
  • Spinach Stuffed Pork Roast (recipe)
  •  
    PIZZA

  • Feta & Spinach Pizza (recipe)
  • Spinach & Grilled Shrimp Pizza (recipe)
  •  
    SIDES

  • Wilted Spinach With Tzatziki (Greek yogurt dip—recipe)
  •  
    SALADS

  • Beet, Spinach & Apple Salad (recipe)
  • Spinach & Grapefruit Salad (recipe)
  •  

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Baby Purple Artichokes (Fiesole)

    In season now, these little artichokes are a treat for artichoke lovers and a lovely shade of vegetable for Easter dinner.

    Called fiesole (fee-YEH-so-lay) in Italian, the baby purple artichoke—the size of a large egg—belongs to the botanical genus and species, Cynara scolymus, which includes the green globe artichokes and purple globe artichokes.

    Artichokes are the immature flower heads of an herbaceous perennial thistle plant in the Compositae botanical family. The cardoon, or artichoke thistle/wild artichoke, is a different species: Cynara cardunculus. Here’s more about artichoke varieties.

    The tulip shaped baby purple artichokes have the same great flavor as their large green and purple kin and are easier to eat because they haven’t developed the fuzzy portion of on top of the choke. They are bright violet in color; the colors fade only slightly when they are cooked.

    The only thorn in the flesh is exactly that: The leaves still have sharp tips.

       

    baby-purple-artichokes-melissas-230

    Baby purple artichokes. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     
    Harvested young for tenderness and rich flavor, baby purple artichokes typically have intense fruity and nutty flavors and grassy tones, and are considered to be the most flavorful of all baby artichoke varieties.

    If you can’t find the artichokes locally, you can buy them from Melissas.com.

    HOW TO BUY BABY ARTICHOKES

    Look for firm, thin, compact leaves (called a tight core) that are bright without discoloration. If you squeeze the artichoke and it squeaks, it is fresh!

    Store the, unwashed in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to two weeks.

    Here’s a photo spread on how to prepare artichokes for cooking.
     
    HOW TO SERVE BABY ARTICHOKES

    Baby artichokes are easy to prepare. They may be baked, boiled, braised, marinated, poached, roasted or steamed. When slow-cooked, artichokes become tender and more flavorful, absorb the flavors with which they are cooked. [Source]

    Artichokes pair well with both fatty and high acid ingredients: anchovies, bacon, basil, butter, cheese (especially goat and feta), cream, garlic, lemon, hollandaise, mushrooms, pepper, sausage, thyme, tomatoes, vinaigrette, white wine and truffles.

    You can find many recipes online, but here are two thoughts:

  • Appetizer: Simmer in olive oil, then fry at until ther leaves open. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and serve.
  • Main: Slice in half and braise the artichokes in olive oil, white wine, garlic and herbs. Serve them with risotto.
  •  

    purple-artichoke-friedasFB-230r

    A purple globe artichoke. The variety is called “Sangria.” Photo courtesy Frieda’s.

     

    A BRIEF ARTICHOKE HISTORY

    Artichokes were first cultivated in the Mediterranean region thousands of years ago in Maghreb, the region of North Africa west of Egypt, where they still growing wild. They spread through the Mediterranean region.

    The Greek philosopher and naturalist Theophrastus (371-287 B.C.E.) wrote of artichokes being grown in Italy and Sicily.

    The Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90 C.E.), a surgeon with the Roman army of Emperor Nero, wrote about artichokes at the time of Christ.

    Ancient Greeks and Romans considered artichokes a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. In the ensuing centuries, they were grown in France and other areas of Europe.

    In America, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery contains a 17th-century recipe entitled “To Make Hartichoak Pie.” In the early 1800s, French immigrants settling in the Louisiana Territory planted artichokes.

     

    In 1922 Andrew Molera, a landowner in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County, California, lease land to Italian immigrant farmers and encouraged them to grow the “new” vegetable, as artichokes were fetching high prices. [Source]

    Fiesole artichokes are named for the city of Fiesole, Italy, an ancient Etruscan town located in the hills above Florence. They were initially bred from the Violetta de Provence artichoke, a purple variety native to southern France.

    As for its botanical name, Cynara scolymus: The genus name comes from the Greek kynara, artichoke. Scolymus derives from the Greek word for thistle.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Leftover Grains As A Soup Garnish

    When we have leftover cooked grains—barley, bulgur, kasha, quinoa, rice, etc.—we start using them the next morning in breakfast omelets. By the time lunch comes, we’re ready to make grain salad.

    If we don’t have enough for a salad, we add the grains to soup. They can make quite a handsome garnish, and most grains go with any type of soup.

    In the photo, Brazilian steakhouse chain Texas de Brazil topped a mound of rice with a shrimp garnish.

    But you can use the grain plain, with a simple sprinkling of green herbs or something equally colorful (halved cherry tomato, sliced jalapeño or bell pepper).

    Or, take the occasion to use up leftover proteins to top the grain: bacon, fish, seafood, poultry, steak. It’s a great way to repurpose small bits of leftovers you can’t do much else with.

    Vegetarians can substitute a cube of grilled tofu, a cherry tomato, olive or leftover steamed vegetables.

    And, you can use leftover beans and pulses (chickpeas, lentils, peas) instead of the grains.

    Whatever you choose, a sprig of green—shredded basil (called chiffonade) or a small basil leaf, rosemary or parsley sprig, cilantro, chives, chopped green onions (scallions) or microgreens–is the final crown on what started out as a conventional bowl of soup.

     

    lobster-bisque-rice-garnish-texasdebrazil-230

    Turn rice into a base for even more garnishes. First mound the grain in the center of the bowl, then carefully pour the soup around it. Photo courtesy Texas de Brazil.

     
    It’s a nice change from croutons.

    Here are 20+ more ways to garnish soup.

      

    Comments

    TRENDS: Restaurant Focus For 2015

    orange-peel-lolalovesgreen-230r

    No more waste: In restaurant kitchens, everything can have a second life. Citrus peel
    is turned into marmalade. Photo courtesy Lola Loves Green.

     

    What are the top culinary concerns for restaurateurs this year?

    According to a survey by Nation’s Restaurant News, the top five focus on gluten-free and sustainability.

    1. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

    Safeguarding natural resources is a growing concern across the globe, and the number one culinary issue cited in a survey of American chefs. It’s not just with fine dining: Fast casual concepts like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Sweetgreen have been on the bandwagon since their inception. Chipotle recently stopped serving pork when it couldn’t find enough sustainable meat!

     
    2. NATURAL INGREDIENTS/MINIMALLY PROCESSED FOODS

    “Clean” labels and minimally processed food appeal to more and more customers. Chefs polled by the National Restaurant Association named natural ingredients and minimally processed food as a major theme. Last year, fast food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s took the concept mainstream, adding an all-natural burger to the menu. Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts have responded to consumer complaints by doing away with additives.
     
    3. HYPERLOCAL SOURCING

    Locally sourced and house-grown food are becoming more and more important to customers. “Hyperlocal” fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown in restaurant gardens. Some restaurants have beehives as well. We’ve even seen chickens strutting around rooftops (fresh eggs!).

     
    4. FOOD/WASTE REDUCTION MANAGEMENT

    Food costs are rising and consumers are growing more concerned about how what they eat affects the planet. Both have become major concerns among the dining public.

    Chefs are practicing more “root-to-stem” cooking, the logical next step to “nose-to-tail” cooking, in which restaurants utilize the entire animal (or vegetable). It’s an effective way to avoid waste and manage costs.

    Chefs have long used bits and scraps—in soups, chicken salad and so forth. But now, they’re making marmalade from citrus skins and bitters from plum and peach pits. This parallels the new law in Seattle, which as of January 1st ordered no more food waste in the garbage. Instead, residents are expected to recycle and compost.

    5. GLUTEN-FREE CUISINE

    Fewer than 7% of Americans are sensitive to gluten; about 1% of people worldwide suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which gluten consumption can cause life-threatening intestinal damage.

    Yet, 63% of Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports said they believed following a gluten-free diet would improve their physical or mental health*. About a third of those said they buy gluten-free products or try to avoid gluten.

    Gluten-free cuisine was the culinary theme chefs pointed to fifth most often in the NRA survey. Restaurants are responding with a growing array of gluten-free options, including gluten-free burger buns.

     
    *Note that no scientific studies to date confirm or deny a positive impact of gluten-free diets among condition-free consumers.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Castelfranco Chicory

    Californians are so lucky. Between the great growing climate and consumer demand for the best, local farmers grow produce not often seen in other parts of the country.

    Take this Castelfranco chicory, a joy to behold. The round, slightly open lettuce* heads have pale green leaves that are speckled with burgundy red.

    Italians call it “a flower for eating.” It’s almost too pretty to eat! Castelfranco is the sweetest of the radicchio-type chicories: crunchy with an interesting, slightly bitter flavor.

    Other names for the lettuce include variegata di Castelfranco, radicchio Castelfranco and Castelfranco variegata. It’s an heirloom radicchio-type chicory from the Veneto region of Italy, where it is abundant and popular. Castelfranco is a town in the area.

    A pretty salad by itself, it can be mixed with other greens.

    The crop from which this head was picked was grown by Dirty Girl Produce, a certified organic family farm in Santa Cruz County. It’s sold at farmers markets, to restaurants and artisan food markets like Good Eggs.

     

    castelfranco-chicory-goodeggs-230

    A beautiful head of castelfranco chicory. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

     

    And people wonder why the first thing we do when landing in California is head to the farmers markets!

     
    *Chicory is in the same botanical family as iceberg lettuce and romaine (Asteraceae), but a different genus (Cichorium versus Lactuca).

      

    Comments

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