Home Posts tagged 'County Line Harvest'

Posts Tagged ‘County Line Harvest’


Maia Bull

Delicious Chicories — Bittersweet Perfection

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Lusia Radicchio

It was the ancient Greek poet Sappho who first coined the term bittersweet. Sappho’s original word glukupikron is actually the inverse of bittersweet, but in the middle of winter, when Fifth Crow Farm’s baby head lettuces are replaced by radicchio and escarole, bitter is definitely what comes to mind. Thankfully the varieties of chicory we’re bringing into the Bi-Rite produce department this month hold sweetness and bitterness in perfect balance.

Taking chicories out of the box and putting them on display is one of the greatest pleasures of this time of year. Lusia Radicchio, with its shades of dusky lavender to pale green speckled with burgundy; Treviso Radicchio, so dark it can be almost black with elegant, skeletal lines of pure white extending thin arms up the long leaves from the base; Puntarelle like prehistoric creatures, with nobs and bumps poking out from the light colored center between thin leaves. We found an Escarole from Martin’s Farm this week that was the size of a small goose.  They also sent us a Pan di Zucchero that was over a foot long!

Escarole

Escarole

Over the last few years the number of farmers growing chicories has increased from only a few to over a dozen. Because chicories are best in the cold, wet months, almost all of the chicories we bring in will be grown locally and sourced directly from the farmer. The aforementioned Martin’s Farm in Salinas is our very own gallery of variation even among one kind of plant. It’s not uncommon to find a tiny finger of dark purple Treviso in a box with a foot long one with red leaves. County Line in Petaluma grows gorgeous Lusia Radicchio. In Sonoma, Oak Hill Farm is growing beautiful round frisée that fade from their dark outer leaves to almost yellow centers.

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Chiogga, Lusia, & Treviso Radicchio

Chicories express a whole range of flavor between sweet and bitter. Generally, the paler the leaves, the sweeter the chicory. This holds true for chicory such as Puntarelle that has both dark and light parts. The tender, blanched heart is sweetest, perfectly complimented by gently bitter green leaf tips. The play between bitterness and sweetness is part of the glory of these greens. The properties of different chicories can be pitted against one another to bring a dish into balance. Using escarole and the sweet Puntarelle hearts tame Chioggia. You can cut Treviso leaves into long, thin strips and use it almost like you might use coarsely ground black pepper. Roasting or braising is another beautiful way to prepare radicchio. Char adds depth of flavor and texture. Single chicories can also be used in multiple ways. I like braising or adding the dark outer leaves of escarole to stew and eating the blanched center leaves raw.

It is an honor to be able to bring such a winter abundance of greens from local farms to Bi-Rite guests. You may see a few varieties of chicory at the market through March, but the peak of the season is now. Every produce clerk will have their own way of savoring this bittersweet ingredient— make sure you chat with any of our helpful staff when you come in. We love introducing our guests to new and exciting food!


Stephany

Cool as a Cucurbit: Cucumbers & Melons

The cucurbits (or cucurbiticae) are a plant family that includes cucumbers, melons and gourds of many kinds. They peak in sweetness and flavor during the summertime. At Bi-Rite we’re lucky to work with a number of local farms that grow unusual heirloom varietals in this family.

A few of my favorites:

Armenian cucumbers, which are botanically considered a melon. We have been getting the ‘Painted Serpent’ varietal, which is long and snakelike, with dark and light green stripes, from Full Belly Farm, Oak Hill Farm and County Line Harvest. You can use these like the more common English cucumber. The skin is very thin and not at all bitter, and the seeds are not yet formed, so no need to peel or seed–just slice them right up. They don’t need to be rock hard; the ones that are a bit bendy will still be crisp. Armenian cucumbers will make the prettiest garnish for your summer gin and tonic.

Lemon cucumbers are small, round and yellow with large but tender seeds. They’re great for slicing into salads, and make beautiful sandwich-sized pickles. They’re lovely sliced up and dressed with a little soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar or lime juice and a pinch of sugar or honey, perhaps over some arugula or baby lettuces.

Watermelons, in mini and huge, seeded, seedless, yellow and red varietals. Orchid and Yellow Doll are two of the yellow-flesh varietals we get from Full Belly Farm. These should be picked when they are ripe and do not really keep ripening like muskmelons do. They should be firm and feel heavy for their size, although there is no surefire way to tell if they are ripe.

Muskmelons have netted skins and get very fragrant when ripe. These include cantaloupes, galia and goddess melons. These will smell very sweet and floral as they ripen, and can get a bit soft (though they shouldn’t be squishy). The more fragrant the stem end is, the sweeter the melon will be.

Recipes!

SaladGoodCucumber Melon Salad with Feta & Olives

This isn’t so much a recipe as a useful guide. Try using what you have and taste as you go. It’s a bit of a riff on a Greek salad and a wonderfully refreshing addition to a barbecue or summertime supper.

  • A mix of your favorite melons, cut into large dice. I like watermelon, galia, cantaloupe & piel de sapo or snow leopard.
  • A mix of your favorite cucumbers, diced or sliced as you like. I like Painted Serpent Armenian cukes and lemon cukes.
  • Red onion or scallions, thinly sliced. I soak the red onion after slicing in cold water for a few minutes to take the edge off, which also sets the color and prevents it from bleeding into the salad.
  • A nice feta, not too salty. Our French feta is the perfect balance of tangy and salty.
  • Kalamata or another fruity olive, pitted. I usually cut them in half, but they can be whole or cut into rings.
  • Fresh herbs. Cilantro and mint are great, but parsley, basil and chives all work. I would recommend to staying away from herbs that are too woody or heavy like thyme and rosemary. Fresh, bright herbs work better to highlight the delicate flavors in the melons. I like to chiffonade them (stack up the leaves, roll into a tight “cigar”, and slice into thin ribbons), but you could chop them or pick the leaves and toss them in whole.
  • Fresh or dried coriander seeds, toasted until fragrant and lightly crushed.
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar or lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Toss everything together in a large bowl or arrange on a platter. Dress to taste with olive oil, red wine vinegar or lime juice and salt. A sprinkle of toasted, crushed coriander seeds wakes up all of the flavors. This salad is best dressed right before serving, though you could certainly do it ahead of time.

Cucumber Raita

Really popular all over India, this is somewhere between a salad and a condiment, and I often use it as both. Awesome in the summer next to grilled meats such as lamb or chicken, or dolloped on top of a sandwich or rice bowl. Also delicious with pita or Dosa chips as a dip!

  • 1-2 cucumbers, unpeeled, shredded on a coarse grater.
  • 1 cup greek yogurt (you could use regular plain yogurt, but it will be less thick).
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds.
  • Salt, sugar, lime juice to taste.

Place the shredded cucumbers in a bowl, salt them and set aside for a few minutes. The salt will draw out the water. Squeeze as much of the water out as you can – a lot will release! Mix it up with some gin and tonic water and have yourself a cocktail, or discard. Place the drained cucumber in a bowl.

Add yogurt to drained cukes and stir. Heat up a small pan over medium to high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of neutral-flavored oil such as canola. When the oil is hot, drop in the cumin seeds. The seeds will darken in color and get really fragrant. Dump the spice oil into the yogurt mixture (this is a technique used commonly in India to quickly add lots of flavor to any dish by making a spice oil, called a tarka). Stir it around, season to taste with salt, lime juice and a pinch of sugar for balance.

Melon Agua Fresca

Again this is less of a recipe and more of guide. The proportions will vary depending on the fruit being used.

Cube up your melon and place it in a blender. Add a handful of sugar (or a squeeze of honey or agave) and cover with water. Blend until smooth. Add more sweetener to taste if necessary, or a squeeze of lime to perk it up. Super refreshing with basil or mint added!