By Himanee Gupta
Thick soups, hearty meats, cheese, and rustic bread. For a lot of us, these are the foods of fall. They’re warming, flavorful, and rich – and sometimes perhaps a bit too rich to easily digest.
However, pairing these fall favorites with such seasonal chicories as Italian dandelion greens, radicchio, frisée, escarole, and Belgian endive can help. These beautifully colored, glossy leafy vegetables all offer meals a bitter taste. That taste helps break up the fat and can be quite pleasing to the palate.
“Bitterness is valued by many culinary traditions around the world,” says Andrea Grom of Green Jeans Market Farm. “In French and Italian food traditions, bitter greens are typically paired with rich foods because they aid digestion.”
Grom first encountered chicories in 2009 while volunteering on organic farms in Italy and Germany through a program known as World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF, which young farmers often tap to gain experience and exposure to different regenerative agricultural practices. At a farm in Tuscany, she fell in love with salads made with radicchio and Italian dandelion greens that her hosts prepared as well as a creamy risotto that included shredded radicchio. Later in southern Bavaria in Germany, she got acquainted with sugarloaf radicchio, a fall staple for Green Jeans, for several years. Her hosts created salads with radicchio, toasted walnuts, and chopped apple.
Longtime New Yorkers make escarole a part of Greens & Beans, a dish featuring cannellini beans, sausage, and a green. Many of my customers introduced me – a transplant – to what has become one of my favorite dishes.
Grom notes that chicories grow best in fall and spring. They are packed with nutrients and fall crops and can be wrapped tightly and stored in refrigerators for several weeks.
Green Jeans is among the many Saratoga Farmers Market vendors offering chicories this season. Look for the frilly leaves of frisée, curly escarole heads, deep red and purple radicchios, plus the green Sugar Loaf. Also, check out the spiked leaves that define Italian dandelion – not quite the wild leaf and yellow flower that fills our backyards and woods in early spring but still related. All of these, says Grom, “are vibrant, healthful greens that are wonderful as salads and in comfort foods.”
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is open Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at High Rock Park. The farmers’ market will move to the Wilton Mall on November 5. Find us online at www.saratogafarmersmarket.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.