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Chicory and Scallion Gratin — A Nature All Around Us Recipe

[image] Chicory and Scallion Gratin — A Nature All Around Us Recipe

Image ©NHMU

By Megan Mullineaux

DON’T WEED IT—EAT IT!

The Dandelion Café inside the Nature All Around Us exhibit at NHMU gives visitors the chance to virtually select from a menu of delectable dishes, each featuring an urban weed as their primary ingredient. Our Chef, Megan, is sharing her recipes, along with tips on foraging and preparing a five-course meal from the weeds that may be popping up in your own backyard. Our first course is the appetizer: Chicory and Scallion Gratin

Ingredients

  • Chicory leaves
    20-28 chicory leaves, ribs removed from larger leaves, washed and loosely chopped or torn 
  • ½ cup finely chopped scallions (separate the white portions from the green portions)
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 8 oz of mascarpone 
  • 2 cups heavy cream 
  • 8 ounces white cheddar cheese, sliced 
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese 
  • Freshly cracked black pepper 

Recipe Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Melt butter in a nonstick skillet. Add chicory leaves and sauté in butter until the leaves begin to wilt. Add the white portions of the chopped scallions to the skillet with the chicory leaves and continue to sauté until the scallions become transparent and soft.
  • Remove skillet from heat. Sprinkle the nutmeg and salt over the chicory/scallion mixture and toss to combine. Add mascarpone and green scallions. Stir until the mixture is evenly coated with mascarpone.
  • Pile the mixture in a 9x9 inch baking dish. Drizzle cream over the top. Layer slices of white cheddar cheese over the chicory mixture.
    Sprinkle parmesan cheese and pepper. Bake for 1 hour until the cream thickens and the cheeses brown.
  • Serve warm with crostini.


Chef’s Notes

Chicory has a unique, earthy flavor that is enhanced by the nutmeg in this recipe.

Scallions were selected for this recipe over other onions because of their sweet and mellow flavor that balances the chicory leaves slightly bitter aftertaste.

Mature chicory leaves found at the base of the plant can be tough, particularly as the plant matures. Sautéing the leaves before adding them to the baking dish softens the cell walls of the leaves, facilitating the diffusion of flavors during baking.


Forage Chicory Leaves like a Pro

A woman forages for chicory in a park.
Avoid toxins. Chicory loves to grow on roadsides and pathways. Only forage in areas you know to be free from pesticides. Avoid foraging next to freeways, parkways, and other high-traffic locations as residue from car exhaust can settle in nearby water sources and soil.

Forage healthy plants. Plants can become unhealthy when afflicted by pests, toxins, fungi, and disease. Harvest chicory that appear healthy to maximize nutrition and minimize the risk of ingesting these undesirable extras.

Leave more leaves than you take. Leaves play an essential role in photosynthesis. When harvesting wild chicory, leave most of the plant in tact so it can continue to grow and reproduce.


Chicory Identifiers

  • A chicory flower.
    Chicory has brilliant purple-blue flowers that make it easy to spot.
  • The long, thin stalks have very small leaves, but the leaves at the base of the plant are larger, and similar in appearance to dandelion leaves.

Chicory Fun Facts

  • You may have eaten domesticated chicory, like radicchio and Belgian endive.
  • Roasted chicory root is a gourmet addition to your morning coffee, and has even been used as a coffee substitute in areas where coffee is scarce.

Megan Mullineaux has over 20 years of training and experience in professional kitchens. She left her career in culinary arts to pursue a college education. She is a proud employee of the Natural History Museum of Utah and a Graduate Student in the University of Utah’s Department of Anthropology. Megan found the perfect way to blend her skills in recipe creation and hobby as a forager of wild foods in her role as the Chef of the Dandelion Café inside Nature All Around Us, a special exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Utah, a part of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Our mission is to illuminate the natural world and the place of humans within it. In addition to housing outstanding exhibits for the public, NHMU is a research museum. Learn more.

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