Winter Radicchio Tart

Winter Radicchio Tart (c) 2012 La Domestique

Last week here at La Domestique, I shared images of produce from the final farmers market of the regular season in Boulder, Colorado in a post titled, The Last Phase is the Most Glorious. Every season, a trip to the market brings the usual staples (carrots, onions, celery, potatoes), seasonal highlights (peaches, corn, pumpkins), and the occasional wildcard vegetable (an unfamiliar green, exotic fruit, or monstrous squash). Scanning the farm stands at the last market of 2012, my eyes smiled at old friends, both human and vegetable, until I came across something I had never seen at the market before – a massive head of ragged leaves, dark green surrounding a tender heart of purple with white veins. As Chef Eric Skokan of the Black Cat farm and restaurant handed me a piece to taste, I looked at him, perplexed, “What IS this?” Chewing on the sturdy, bitter leaf, my brain knew it was the wild, tannic flavor of a chicory, but my eyes weren’t sure. It was a radicchio – but not just any variety of radicchio, a huge leafy head of Radicchio Palla Rossa.

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Cook in the Moment: Grilled Chicories

Grilled Endive, Frisée, and Radicchio with Bagna Cauda (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

My husband and I moved to Colorado four years ago from Memphis, Tennessee. Though we came from a region known for its barbecue, I discovered the joy of cooking over open flames in Boulder. Growing up in the oppressive heat and humidity of Arkansas, going outside meant getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Arriving in Boulder, Colorado, I was intoxicated by breathing the fresh, dry air, and the feel of brisk breezes coming off the Rocky Mountains. I felt lighter, and the stunning snow-capped mountain views seduced me, constantly calling me outside. At altitude, the sun shines more intensely, and even on a 30 degree winter’s day, if there is sunlight on your shoulders you’ll be warmed through. Our fourth floor apartment faces open fields where bald eagles nest and coyotes roam, horses gallop around the pond and cows ruminate. This time of year, as winter becomes spring, you can find us on the balcony with a glass of wine and our little Weber grill lit, a trail of savory smoke drifting above our heads. Cooking on the grill is easy, it’s casual, and to me, it’s the essence of Colorado living. As the days grow longer, I begin to pine for patio time, the simplicity of summer cooking, and a slower pace of life. On a warm March day, the husband uncovers our grill and I open a bottle of wine. Tomorrow might bring a foot of snow, but today feels like spring, and we intend to savor this moment.

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10 Ways Tuesday: Chicory

Frisée Salad with Poached Egg, Croutons, Peas & Lemon Vinaigrette (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with chicories like endive, radicchio, and escarole during winter:

1.  Baked Escarole Stuffed with Breadcrumbs, Olives & Capers

This recipe from The Silver Spoon (self-professed bible on Italian cooking) smartly treats broad and sturdy escarole leaves like cabbage by stuffing and baking them in the oven. Begin by rinsing the whole head of escarole and tossing it into a hot pan with olive oil and garlic while still dripping wet. Cover the pan and let the escarole steam for a few minutes, meanwhile toast breadcrumbs and chopped garlic in oil until golden. Stir sliced green olives, capers, and parsley into the breadcrumbs and use the mixture to stuff inside the layers of escarole leaves. Place the stuffed escarole in a buttered casserole dish, top with more breadcrumbs and bake in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about twenty minutes. It’s a great side dish and the idea sets my mind in motion, thinking of so many delicious variations.

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Ingredient of the Week: Chicory

Chicory (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

As the month of February comes to an end, my heart dares to hope that spring is on its way. The weather here in Colorado is characteristically unpredictable -one day warm and sunny, only to surprise us with a foot of snow the very next morning. March blows in like a lion, tearing through the foothills with 80 mile per hour winds that shake our walls and rattle the windows. It’s unsettling, at the very least. Our snowiest month of the year is a time when those living in temperate zones plant their spring gardens. The Colorado gardener must either be patient or lucky: wait until April to plant seedlings, when the threat of snow has passed, or put the fragile seedlings out early and get a head start on a short growing season. A late snow could spell catastrophe. Complaints from a southern transplant like me get no sympathy, “That’s Colorado,” the natives say.

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