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The mesclun revolution began 26 years ago in Berkeley, Calif., said Amy Scattergood in the Los Angeles Times. That was when Alice Waters, chef-proprietor of Chez Panisse, began growing lettuce, arugula, and herbs in her own backyard. She was intent on creating gourmet dishes using only organic produce and meats, and these ingredients were simply not available in either supermarkets or farmers’ markets. Today, fresh chicory, baby red lettuce, radicchio, and other mesclun ingredients have become standard fare for many Americans. A younger generation of chefs is also experimenting
with new ways to incorporate greens into their dishes. Chef D.J. Olsen of
Lou, a Los Angeles wine bar, cuts radicchio “into chiffonade and stirs it into a slowcooked polenta with fennel and herbs, grilling more radicchio to place on top.”
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Recipe of the week
Polenta With Treviso Radicchio, Fennel, and Herbs
1-1/2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup coarse, stone-ground polenta
1/4 cup finely minced herbs, at least five types such as rosemary, thyme, chives, tarragon, and parsley
1/3 cup plus 3 tsp olive oil, divided
1 small sweet onion (Maui, Vidalia, or Walla Walla), julienned
7 small heads Treviso radicchio (about 14 oz), divided
2 small heads fennel, split, core removed and thinly julienned lengthwise
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
In large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring chicken broth to boil. Slowly rain in polenta, whisking continuously. Once broth has returned to boil, reduce heat to simmer, add herbs and cook, stirring frequently for 30 minutes. If polenta becomes difficult to stir, add more broth (or water) as necessary.
Meanwhile, heat large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add 1/3 cup olive oil to pan; when it’s hot, add onion. Season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 5 minutes. While onion is cooking, remove bruised leaves from 4 heads of the radicchio, thinly slice each
head crosswise down to its base, discarding root end. Add sliced radicchio, fennel, and pepper to onions. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, cook until fennel is tender, about 20 minutes.
Add mixture of fennel, onion, and radicchio to polenta. Season with salt to taste and continue cooking, stirring frequently, adding additional broth or water as necessary, until polenta is tender, an additional 20 to 30 minutes. When polenta is almost done, halve 3 remaining heads of radicchio lengthwise. Onto each, brush 1/2 tsp olive oil and sprinkle with pinch of salt and sugar. Grill, cut-side down, over medium-high heat for about a minute to soften radicchio and caramelize the sugar. Set aside in warm place.
Once polenta is cooked, stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano, season with Meyer lemon juice to taste, adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve polenta in pre-warmed pasta bowl, finishing with grind of black pepper. Splay a grilled
half of radicchio over each bowl of polenta and serve immediately. Serves 6 as a main course or 8 as a side dish.
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