Chicories, which include red-leaved radicchio, torpedo-shaped Belgian endive, lacy green-and-white curly endive, exuberantly curly-leaved frisée, and lettuce-like escarole, are members of the lettuce family that share a pleasing bitterness. When used raw, they bring texture and a sophisticated bite to salads, especially when paired with salty elements (think asiago or blue cheese, ham, or warm bacon dressing), as salt lessens the perception of bitterness. Cooked, that bitter note is transformed—the vegetables mellow and take on a nutty flavor. The sturdy leaves take well to braising, sautéing, and grilling alike. We love them added to soups, roasted with root vegetables until sweet, or stirred into risotto.
HOW TO BUY
Look for brightly colored, firm leaves free of brown spots. When shopping for Belgian endive specifically, look for tissue-packed varieties that have been kept from exposure to light. (Light causes the leaves to green and become unpalatably bitter.)
HOW TO STORE
Store chicories and endives wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to a week. (They can still be used after a week—but discard any leaves that show signs of yellowing).
HOW TO PREPARE
Chicories and endives should be rinsed before using. They brown when cut or torn, so if you’re using them raw, break them down (trimming the base to separate leaves) just before serving.