If you're not sure how many ways chicory can --- or should -- be prepared, it may be because one man's chicory is another man's endive, or radicchio. Roasted radicchio and grilled endive are well-known examples of upscale chicory-family vegetables, but only some chicory types are suitable for serving as cooked greens. For salad lovers, all the plants in the chicory family work well as fresh greens.
Curly chicory, also known as curly endive or frisee, is green and ruffled. The inner leaves are more tender than the outer ones. A heading form of chicory growing in popularity, Sugarloaf is one of the milder-tasting members of the chicory-endive family, with broad, tender leaves. Asparagus chicory -- sometimes called catalogue chicory due to the cultivar's official name of "Catalogna" -- most resembles wild chicory, with its long, thin leaves.
Endive, also known as Belgian endive or wifloof chicory, is tightly-headed and elongated. Its pale green or white coloring is a result of a careful blanching technique, which also makes it one of the most expensive items in the produce aisle. Radicchio's aliases include Italian chicory and red-leaf chicory. It starts out as a green-leaved garden plant, but turns red as it matures.
On their own, most chicory varieties are too bitter to be used as the primary flavor note in green salads. The possible exceptions are Sugarloaf chicory and the inner leaves of curly chicory. For the sake of contrast in color and shape, consider mixing even the milder chicory greens with red-leaf lettuce. On the bitter-to-sharp end of the scale, curly chicory, radicchio, endive and wild chicory all blend well with mild greens such as Boston, Bibb or Romaine lettuces. Chopped Belgium endive can perform well in Waldorf-style winter salads.
Other Fresh Options
Radicchio makes a colorful edible bowl for cold chicken and tuna salads. After hollowing out a radicchio half, finely chop the leaves you've removed to scatter over the top of the cold salad. Radicchio is also handy for holding vegetable dips and raw crudité vegetables, including wedges made from the inner section. Belgian endive also adds intrigue to the crudités tray. It is usually served in spears, created by cutting off the base of each plant, hollowing out the small bitter cone at the stem end, and halving or quartering the narrow heads.
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