Peter Barrett’s Chicory Pesto | Kitchen Vignettes for PBS
If you've never had chicory, talk to Peter Barrett. His love for this little-known green is contagious. A prolific food writer, teacher and gardener, Peter is the author of the book "Project 258: Making Dinner at Fish & Game" and the host of "CookPod", a podcast featuring culinary talents. He grows, preserves, and cooks as […]

If you've never had chicory, talk to Peter Barrett. His love for this little-known green is contagious. A prolific food writer, teacher and gardener, Peter is the author of the book "Project 258: Making Dinner at Fish & Game" and the host of "CookPod", a podcast featuring culinary talents. He grows, preserves, and cooks as much of his own food as possible at his home in New York State. I grow a lot of green vegetables in my garden: kale, chard, lettuce, arugula, mustard… but now I realize that I have only skimmed the surface of the wonderful world of leafy plants. Especially the bitter ones. I never really thought about growing chicory. After all, it's not very well known here in North America and many of us don't know how to cook with it. But after meeting Peter and filming this episode (a chicory pesto love letter) I can't wait until next spring because guess what I'm gonna plant a ton in my garden?

Chicory pesto

Peter was introduced to chicory in Italy, while living in Rome in his twenties. He first tasted it in "cicoria ripassata" which means chicory cooked twice, a classic dish of chicory boiled then sautéed that can be found on most menus of Roman restaurants, from the most humble of establishments to the most chic. . And from there, Peter's love for everything chicory was cemented. In his home garden in the Hudson Valley, he now grows red, pink, dark green and pale, large and small varieties.

Chicory pesto

Chicory is part of the bitter green family which includes endives, radicchio, treviso, curly, escarole and dandelion. Many varieties of chicory are native to Italy, and for farmers and gardeners there are many varieties to choose from. A wonderful attribute of the chicory family is that they are very cold hardy, which makes them well suited to the short growing season of northern climates. In fact, with a little effort, they can be grown year round, even in cold, snowy winters.

Chicory pesto

As soon as you start chatting with Peter, you immediately start learning new things about food that you didn't know. It's no wonder he found his calling teaching cooking classes and writing about food. When Peter says he's experimenting extensively with the crops he grows in his garden, he's not kidding. Her pantry is stocked with an amazing array of homemade concoctions ranging from vinegars to mustards, shoyus to misos and everything in between. Basically, if he grew it, he probably fermented, smoked, dehydrated, cured, or pickled it too. Browsing her instagram feed is intriguing and mind-enriching: you'll see two-year-old sweet corn miso, spruce-tip vinegar, homemade pasta, cold cuts, and unique recipes influenced by the culinary traditions of the France and Italy, two of the countries where he leads culinary tours. He also makes maple syrup each spring, grows his own mushrooms, and grows an incredible amount of food in the 30 or so permanent beds that populate his front yard. During the filming of this episode, I was particularly mesmerized by a 7 or 8 foot high plant bed covered with bulging pods. Sesame plants, he explained. Who knew you could grow your own sesame seeds right here in the Northeast ?!

Chicory pesto

Peter's chicory pesto immediately caught my eye because it's a recipe he learned over 20 years ago from his friend Richard Zukowski, a master healer and prolific gardener who called him "green mash." . Richard recently passed away and the recipe took on new meaning for Peter, in this particular way the recipes often carry the spirit of the people who passed them on to us, even after they left. It's also a recipe that teaches us to befriend the bitterness of chicory, something that Peter says can significantly expand our culinary palate. In his words: "The fat from the pine nuts and oil helps tame the bitterness of the chicory, and the mash is sublime with anything from vegan lentils to an almost rare slice of beef - which Richard called it “land sushi”.

Chicory pesto

For his chicory pesto, Peter likes to use a variety of Italian chicory called Pan di Zucchero which means sugar loaf. Its light green head is shaped like a rugby ball. Peter chooses it for its lively, almost sweet note that hides in the midst of bitterness. As Peter says, "If you get familiar with chicory and other bitter plants, you can unlock some of the most invigorating and addicting flavors available to balance a plate of food." Not only that, but the bitterness of chicory and many other plants has proven to be extremely nutritious for us, in part because they contain anti-cancer compounds. So if, like me, you are new to the chicory world, this recipe is the perfect introduction to this wonderful world. Enjoy!

    Ingredients

  • 1 head (about 1 lb) of Pan di Zucchero or other chicory (escarole, curly, dandelion, radicchio, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted in a skillet
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard (optional)
  • Good extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt

    directions

  1. Chop the chicory into thin strips, then chop it crosswise to break it down further. If you are using a food processor, add everything except the oil to the bowl and pulse a few times to combine everything, then add oil while running it until you get the consistency you want. Taste the seasoning, adjust if necessary and serve.
  2. If you are using a suribachi or a mortar and pestle, start by crushing the garlic and pine nuts with a little salt. Add a little vinegar to help loosen the dough from the bottom of the bowl, then start adding handfuls of greens and a little oil and mash them into the dough. Continue to add greens, as well as oil, letting each addition incorporate and break down before adding more. When the greens are all incorporated - it will be a mixture of fine and larger pieces - add the rest of the vinegar, salt, mustard if using, mix well, taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary and serve .

Aube Giroux is a food writer, award-winning James Beard documentary filmmaker and organic gardening enthusiast and home cook, who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen thumbnails.



Whether you regularly whip up Michelin-worthy meals at the drop of a hat or your cooking skills are best described as “fine, ” you can always benefit from the helpful little tricks of others. Here, 14 of our friends’, families’ and coworkers’ most-used cooking tips.

There’s a time and a place to whip out that complicated coq au vin recipe you’ve been dying to try. A dinner party isn’t that time. With a new recipe, you’ll likely be chained to the kitchen the whole time, plus, when you’re trying something for the first time, there’s always the possibility that it could go horribly wrong. When cooking for a group, we always err on the side of tried-and-true crowd-pleasers.

You do hours of prep work on an intricate dish, only to be totally disappointed once you taste the terminal product. Bummer. Instead of putting in all that effort only to be disappointed, taste while you cook. That way, you’ll realize sooner that the dish isn’t tasting how you’d like it to, and you can make all kinds of last-ditch exercices to save it. This doesn’t just work for bad-to-OK meals. Tasting midway through and realizing how perfect a dash of cayenne or a squirt of lemon juice would be can take a great dinner to legendary status.

Plating pasta means tossing some onto a plate and finishing it with a nice dollop of sauce right on the middle, right ? Wrong. Here’s how to take your carbs to the next level : On the stove there should be two pans, one with pasta and one with sauce. Cook the pasta to al dente and transfer it into the sauce. Then, add a little bit of pasta water ( literally just the starchy water the pasta has been cooking in ), which will help the sauce cling to the pasta while also keeping it the right consistency. Perfection.

In the pursuit of the perfect steak, you have to be OK with your kitchen getting a little smoky. That’s because, to get the mouthwatering sear we’re all after, the meat has to be dry and the pan should be pretty damn close to smoking hot. Trust us, it’s worth a few seconds of a blaring alarm.

Most foods are ruined by too much salt. Steak is different. When it comes to seasoning your meat ( before you cook it ), more is more. Use a generous amount of coarse Kosher salt—more than you think you need. Since most cuts of steak are pretty thick, even though you’re using a lot of salt, it’s still only covering the surface.

This one isn’t too complicated. Whether you’re making avocado toast, pizza, fried rice or a burger, the addition of a fried egg on top will not hurt your feelings. Trust us.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but we’ve definitely found ourselves in a situation where we assumed we knew all of the ingredients that went into chocolate chip cookies only to find out that we had about half the required amount of brown sugar. Ugh. to avoid a mid-cooking grocery-store trip, read the recipe from front to back—carefully—before you start.

Prepping céréales in mass quantities is less about taste than convenience. Rice, quinoa and even oatmeal last about a week in the fridge after being cooked. When we’re prepping any one of those, we double up our measurements and store the leftovers, which are then impossibly easy to use up throughout the week. Too tired to make dinner ? Heat up some leftover rice from the fridge and toss an egg on top ( remember ? ). Couldn’t be simpler.

So you fried up a pound of bacon for an indulgent ( read : delicious ) brunch. Great, just make sure you don’t throw out the grease in the pan. Instead, save it in the refrigerator or freezer ( it technically lasts for up to a year, but should be used sooner than that to take full advantage of its flavor ). Then, anytime you’re cooking something you typically prepare in oil, try cooking it in the bacon grease instead. You’ll never want to eat Brussels sprouts the old way again.

You’ve probably heard that whenever a dish is lacking a little something-something, the best thing to do is toss in some salt. But, we have it on good authority that salt isn’t always the answer. When you’re tasting a dish at the end and you think it needs a little oomph, often it just needs a splash of acid ( like lemon juice ) to round out the flavor.

You know the difference between a paring knife and a fillet knife, but do you know how to take care of them ? Or, more importantly, how to use them ? A set of good knives can be the difference between a stressful cooking experience and a great one. First, practice your knife skills. Look up tutorials on YouTube and practice chopping, slicing and julienne-ing. It’s amazing what you can do with your cook time when your prep time is shortened with solid knife skills. Then, once you’ve got your skills down pat, learn how to take care of your set. No one ever achieved kitchen greatness with a dull chef’s knife.

The key to tender, flavorful barbecue and roasts ? Cooking it on a low temperature for a long time. The same doesn’t go for roasting veggies. For crispy, perfectly cooked butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and more, remember the magic number : 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower, and you risk pulling a pan of blah carrots out of the oven. It might seem high, but to get the nice roasted flavor, you need high heat. And while we’re on the subject, stop crowding your veggies in the pan, which will also make them soggy.

You know how just about every cookie recipe suggests that you chill your dough in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, but oftentimes you don’t listen because you just want cookies now ? ! ( Same. ) Unfortunately, this step actually does make a difference. In addition to limiting how much the dough spreads while baking, chilling your dough intensifies the flavors and produces that perfect chewy, crispy texture we know and love.

It won’t do your breath any favors, but never ( ever ) scrimp on garlic. In fact, we typically double the amount a recipe calls for. Apologies to anyone who was planning on kissing us.

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