Pan di Zucchero * Sugarloaf * Cicchorium Intybus
Pan di zucchero, also called sugarloaf, is a tall-headed member of the chicory family. It is mildly bitter and forms a tight green head that can grow to be quite long, well-over a foot in the right conditions. Like other chicories it is frost tolerant and is of the highest quality when grown in cool temperatures. It keeps up to two months in cold storage, and serves as an ideal lettuce substitute in the winter months. Sugar loaf is mild, bittersweet, and crispy - reminiscent of romaine but with more depth of flavor. Its mildness makes it a good introductory chicory for those adverse to its more bitter relative, radicchio.
In our neck of the woods sugarloaf is a very uncommon green. I have not seen any other market vendors selling it aside from Loma, and I have never come across it in a local bodega or grocer. I reckon in certain areas of the country it is bit easier to find. It has been so well received at the winter market, that I have a hunch it may grow in popularity over the next few years.
Anytime I eat a member of the chicory family I exclaim that it is my favorite - when eating pan seared radicchio with balsamic and parmesan I moan utterances of delight proclaiming that indeed, radicchio is the finest. Then I have escarole with pan roasted garlic and lemon and tears stream down my cheeks in disbelief of the pleasures of the table, and I crown escarole the king of chicories. However, I am setting the record straight and once and for all placing sugarloaf as the heir to the thrown, the ever-delicious, the grand and ornate, the creme de la creme.
Sugarloaf in the Kitchen
Sugarloaf has a firm base of tightly wrapped green leaves with white ribs, the leaves loosen toward the top and become of lower quality. I generally remove the top two or three inches of the head using these darker, tougher, and more bitter greens for soups or wilted greens. The base on the other hand is excellent as a salad green chopped finely and served on its own with a simple dressing. It pares well with nuts, carrots, sunflower seeds, apples, pears, sharp cheeses, anchovies, garlic, lemon, and vinegars with high character.
Grilled or Pan-Seared Sugarloaf
salt and pepper
balsamic or red wine vinegar
Cut the sugarloaf in half lengthwise, rinse well, drain, and pat dry. Heat a grill or a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Brush the sugar loaf with olive oil and place on the grill or in the pan and cook turning every few minutes until the leaves have wilted and browned, this will take 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat place the halves on a platter, drizzle with vinegar and olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Radicchio also fares well in this treatment.
Chopped Sugarloaf Salad
1 head sugarloaf
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove
3 Tbsp olive oil
Cut the sugarloaf crosswise into ribbons, wash, and spin dry. In small bowl mix together 1 tsp red wine vinegar, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 clove garlic (smashed to puree in mortar), and a bit of salt. Whisk in olive oil. Shred one carrot mix with the sugarloaf in a presentable salad bowl and pour the dressing over. Adjust as desired.