We love chicories for their versatility. These healthy greens have a bitter taste that complements a range of other flavors; they’re delicate enough to eat raw in salads, but sturdy enough to stand up to roasting, grilling and sauteing. Some of the most popular (and our favorites!) are Belgian endive, curly endive, escarole, frisee and radicchio — read on to learn all about them.
First, it’s important to distinguish between different types of chicories. Belgian endive is a torpedo-shaped shoot that sometimes has red tips. Curly endive, also known as chicory or curly chicory, has narrow, spiky, finely curled leaves and a creamy white heart. Frisee, also a sturdy lettuce, is slightly immature curly endive, with a smaller head and more delicate and tender leaves. Escarole (also known as common chicory, broad chicory or Batavian endive) has loose, broad, green outer leaves, wide white stalks, and a yellow-green heart. Radicchio is characterized by variegated purplish-red leaves.
Look for: Look for crispness in chicories. Buy firm, fat heads of Belgian endive with tight, unblemished leaves. In curly varieties, avoid browning, and pass over heads with thick, tough leaves. Select radicchio heads with white cores that are firm and heave no holes, blemishes or moist leaves. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Prep tips: Cut endives in half lengthwise or separate the leaves. To wash chicories, wash and spin in a salad spinner or immerse in a bowl with cold water. Discard any wilted or yellowed leaves. Lift out the leaves gently and repeat until the water is clear. Dry in a salad spinner or by shaking gently in a clean kitchen towel.
Uses: Chicories have a range of uses, from salads to cooked side dishes. Salads aren’t usually made with chicories alone, because of their bitterness; they are best mixed with milder lettuces, fruit and nuts, or wilted with a warm dressing. Belgian endives may be with mild fillings for hors d’oeuvres, while the whole head is sometimes braised or even grilled. Escarole can be chopped and mixed with other salad greens, cooked as a green, or added to soups or pasta sauces. Frisee is especially nice with pears and walnuts or as a bed for grilled chicken or fish. Raw radicchio leaves hold up well in a salad, and their assertive flavor is nicely matched with cheeses, cured meats, anchovies, olives and capers. The leaves, which darken when cooked, can be sautéed with garlic and anchovies for a side dish, a pasta sauce or a pizza topping, or the heads can be grilled.
|Endive Salad with Persimmon and Pomegranate
Sweet Fuyu persimmons and tangy cheese contrast perfectly with bitter endive. The ingredients create a beautiful palette of colors, perfect for a dinner party.
|Halibut with Braised Escarole and White Beans
Here, the classic combination of escarole and white beans forms a delicious base for seared halibut fillets.
|Frisée and Apple Salad with Herb-Crusted Goat Cheese Medallions
A classic vinaigrette pairs beautifully with the bitterness of the frisée, the sweetness of the apples and the tanginess of the goat cheese in this starter salad.
|Spaghetti with Radicchio and Bacon
The original version of this dish is meatless, but our recipe includes bacon; its sweet, smoky flavor pairs so well with the bold radicchio and a generous dusting of freshly ground pepper.
|Baked Red Endive with Tomatoes and Pancetta
When baked, endive loses its bitter edge and turns mellow. In this Italian-inspired side dish, it’s paired with a chunky tomato sauce and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
|Radicchio, Orange and Hazelnut Salad
The colors of this salad are dramatic: deep burgundy radicchio leaves, orange citrus, white shallot slices and toasty brown nuts.
|Wild Rice Soup with Porcini and Escarole
Wild rice goes beautifully with tender escarole, earthy mushrooms and a touch of rich cream in this cold-weather soup.
|Pan-Grilled Radicchio with Italian-Style Salsa Verde
Grilling thick wedges of radicchio caramelizes and sweetens the outer leaves. Salsa verde adds a contrasting color as well as a piquancy that brightens the winter chicory.
|Braised Potatoes & Escarole
Escarole and potatoes emerge meltingly tender from a slow cooker in this dish, before being drizzled with a zesty vinaigrette and diced orange.
|Stir-Fried Tri-tip with Radicchio
Here, thin slivers of radicchio are quickly stir-fried with beef and watercress to make an easy weeknight meal.