Chica Chica Boom!

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Bite from the bitter greens, the spring chicories, Radicchio and Dandelion greens, are here to help you to tone your tummy (from the inside) and put some zest in the rest of your body.

Chicory heads of Radicchio can appear loose leafed and freckled, or as compact maroon bundles. Radicchio varieties with beautiful Italian names like  Pan de Zuccero, Bianco, or Castelfranco always get top billing in restaurants. Wolfgang Puck's Radicchio and Chanterelle Pizza is served with the same  haut cuisine treatment as a small plate of grilled Radicchio with an artful dash of balsamic reduction. On the other hand, the serrated Dandelion Greens are a stepchild that constantly reminds diners that it isn't the same weed you just stepped on coming up the walk.

Dandelion in French means “Tooth of the Lion,” which describes its look, but also its bite. It is indeed the same as the bright yellow flowers that eternally bloom in lawns to delight children and dismay gardeners. But unlike the dandelion weed, this dandy has been carefully cultivated and organically grown by the farmers at Coke Farms (San Benito county). To enjoy the full roar of Dandelions sharp taste, rip them into bits, and add to a salad. If you like it tempered, blanch the greens by adding them chopped to salted boiling water for 10 minutes, remove and dunk in cold water. Then enjoy with olive oil, lemon, and salt, or try a sauté with garlic, onion, toasted pine nuts, and raisins.

A bit of bitter flavor is an important element to a balanced diet. In Chinese cuisine pungent, sweet, sour, salty, and bitter flavors are all partners. In Italian cuisine a bitter aperitif is customary. In German cuisine, bitters in the form of food, medicine, or schnapps are used as digestive. Herbalists worldwide recommend Dandelion greens as a wonderful liver tonic and general detoxifier in springtime. Enjoy this humble plant.

No creature is fully itself till it is, like the dandelion, opened in the bloom of pure relationship to the sun, the entire living cosmos. ~D.H. Lawrence

--Heidi Lewis


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