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Taming the bitter greens.

How do you feel about the almost jolting pungency of the chicory family?

You can mellow it by cooking the greens

A taste for bitter food is an acquired pleasure. While some relish the sharp, jolting pungency and the soothing, almost medicinal note that follows, others push the same morsels to the side of the plate. But not the Italians. They savor bitter flavors with a passion, from their Campari aperitif and salads exploding with tongue-tingling sensations to cooked dishes enlivened with acrid accents. Often the bitterness can be traced to the chicory family Belgian endive, curly endive, escarole, frisee, and radicchio. They all have the same underlying nip.

For maximum effect, use these chicories raw in salads. To tame and mellow their bite, cook them as a vegetable, in risotto, or for pasta. If you're less adventurous, consider the milder greens-escarole, curly endive, or frisee (a fine-leafed variety of curly endive); they acquire a balancing sweetness when cooked.

Escarole, Belgian endive, and curly endive are commonly available in most supermarkets. Look for radicchio and frisee in markets with specialty produce.

Chicory Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups shredded Belgian endive (12 oz.) or radicchio (6 oz.); or 5 cups shredded escarole (10 oz.), curly endive (6 oz.), or frisee (10 oz.)

1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 small clove garlic, pressed or minced

1 cup medium-grain white rice or

Italian short-grain white rice (such as arborio)

3-1/2 cups regular-strength chicken broth

Grated parmesan cheese

Whole leaves of Belgian endive, radicchio, escarole, curly endive, or frisee, rinsed and crisped

Place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 3to 4-quart pan over high heat. Add shredded chicory (and lemon juice if using radicchio). Stir over high beat until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the butter, onion, and garlic to pan. Stir occasionally over medium heat until onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir until it looks milky, about 3 minutes. Mix in broth and bring to a boil, stirring often. Adjust heat so rice boils gently; cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, untit rice is tender to bite, 15 to 20 minutes. Lower heat and stir more often as mixture thickens.

Stir in cooked chicory. Remove from heat and add remaining butter and 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese; mix gently. Scoop into warm serving dish. Garnish with whole chicory leaves. Offer additional cheese to add to taste. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Per serving with Belgian endive: 238 cal; 4.2g protein; 11 g fat; 29 g carbo. ; 95 mg sodium; 15 mg chol.

Vermicelli with Chicory

1 pound dry vermicelli

3 slices (2 to 3 oz. total) pancetta or bacon, thinly slivered

1/4 cup olive oil 2 green onions (ends trimmed), thinly sliced

3 parsley sprigs

1-3/4 cups regular-strength chicken broth

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

8 cups shredded curly endive (8 oz.), escarole (12 oz.), or frisee (1 lb.); or 6 cups shredded radicchio (12 oz.) or Belgian endive (1-1/2 lb.)

2 tablespoons lemon juice (optional)

Salt and pepper

Lemon wedges

Cook the vermicelli in about 3 quarts boiling water, uncovered, until just barely tender to bite, 7 to 9 minutes. Drain and place in a warm serving dish; keep warm. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch frying pan or 5to 6-quart pan, stir pancetta over high heat until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Add oil, green onions, and parsley. Stir until onions are limp.

Add broth and lemon peel. Boil, uncovered, until liquid reduces by about 1/3, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard parsley sprigs. Stir in shredded chicory (and lemon juice if using radicchio). Stir until greens wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour over hot vermicelli.

Add salt, pepper, and lemon to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings. Per serving with curly endive: 342 cat;8.9g protein; 14 g fat,' 45 g carbo.; 89 mg sodium; 7.1 mg chol.

Braised Chicory

1 head escarole (3/4 tO 1 lb.) or curly endive (8 to 12 oz.); or 2 heads frisee (8 oz. each), radicchio (4 oz. each), or Belgian endive (4 oz. each)

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Lemon wedges

Cut escarole and curly endive lengthwise through the core into quarters. Cut frisee, radicchio, and Belgian endive in half lengthwise. Rinse gently between leaves, keeping quarters or halves intact. Drain.

To a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place chicory, cut side down, in pan. Add 3 tablespoons water. Cover and cook until thickest stems are barely tender when pierced, chicory is lightly browned on bottom, and water has almost evaporated, 3 to 6 minutes. Transfer to serving dish. Add salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving with escarole: 75 cal; 1.1 g protein; 7.2 g fat; 2.9 g carbo. ; 19 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Publication:Sunset
Date:Mar 1, 1989
Words:843
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