Chicory Rocks the Salad Bowl

 , The New York Times  |  Updated: February 03, 2016 18:13 IST

Chicory Rocks the Salad Bowl
Give me a leafy salad any day. Make it romaine, butter lettuce, watercress, red oak or a mixture of sturdy midsize leaves, and dress it simply with a good vinaigrette or with nuts, fruit and cheese. In cooler weather, compose it with as many kinds of multicolored chicory as possible.

The well-loved Italian chicory called radicchio, now common in North America, comes in many guises. The round-headed radicchio di Chioggia is the most readily available, but others, like the elongated Treviso and the curly fingered Tardivo, are increasingly popular. They sport various shades of red, from burgundy to crimson to oxblood.

The chicory family is a large one, though, and other members come in other colors, such as the fetchingly speckled yellow-cast Castelfranco; pale green broad-leafed escarole; curly endive (blanched for salads); or pointy Belgian endive, which can be ivory or pink.

All chicories feature a pleasant, bittersweet flavor, which requires a somewhat assertive vinaigrette. A lemony, garlicky anchovy dressing is a delightful choice, one I often employ with these vibrant leaves, sometimes with a garnish of chopped egg. Another classic option is a mustard vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar and crisp bacon lardons — like the traditional French bistro curly endive salad — or a zesty, peppery blue cheese dressing.

Chicory pairs handsomely with citrus fruit: Use blood orange, grapefruit, kumquat or tangerine, with a citrus dressing. Or try a shallot and balsamic vinegar dressing with walnut oil and toasted walnuts.Another approach is to grill or broil. Split the chicory lengthwise and cut the halves into wedges before letting them char a bit. Serve warm or at room temperature, napped with vinaigrette.

Of course, you don’t want to drown these brilliant leaves, even if they can take a bit more dressing than tender lettuces. I find it best to give them a sprinkle of salt and only a few tablespoons of dressing, tossing to coat every leaf. Let the salad sit for a few minutes and taste it before adding more.

You may use just one chicory if you wish (say, all Belgian endive or radicchio), but a crisp bowl filled with a multitude of varieties is a gorgeous, mouthwatering sight to behold.

Colorful Chicory Salad With Anchovy Dressing

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes

1 pound mixed chicory leaves, such as radicchio, Castelfranco or Belgian endives, trimmed and washed

2 garlic cloves, grated

4 anchovy fillets, chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Kosher salt and black pepper

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Croutons, for garnish

Grated pecorino or Parmesan, for garnish

1. Tear radicchio or Castelfranco leaves into rough 2-inch pieces; slice any other chicories into 2-inch-wide ribbons. Put the leaves in a salad bowl.

2. Make the dressing: Combine the garlic, anchovy, mustard, vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a generous amount of pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning.

3. Make the salad: Sprinkle the chicory leaves with a pinch of salt and add 3 tablespoons dressing. Toss well, making sure all leaves are coated lightly. Taste a leaf and add more dressing as needed. Add croutons and grated cheese before serving.

© 2016 New York Times News Service

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