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General Description: Endive (Cichorium endivia), closely related to chicory, is a group of leafy vegetables in the Compositae family that share a tendency to be slightly to overtly bitter and fibrous. Curly endive, which is common in American markets, is fairly tough and bitter and best cooked in soup or vegetable ragouts. It grows in bunches of long, deep green, curly edged leaves with thin white ribs. The center is yellow-white.

Blanched curly endive is more commonly marketed as frisée, its French name, or riccia, its Italian name. This smaller, lighter version of common curly endive is kept from light while growing, resulting in slim ragged-edged leaves that range from ivory to apple green. The heads have an opened, flattened shape because they are pressed down while growing. It is a common addition to spring mix salad greens. Raised in California, Italy and France, it is expensive because of its demanding growing process.

Escarole has broad, lightly ruffled leaves that form an open, flattened head. It ranges in color from light yellow to deep green. It is also called Batavian endive after the ancient tribe that occupied Holland. Escarole, which is very popular in Italian cookery (especially for soups), is quite mild in flavor, with a melting texture when cooked.

Season: Endive is available year-round, with peak season from December through April.

Purchase: Select curly endive or escarole that is brightly colored with perky leaves. The best curly endive is kept on ice. Select blanched curly endive that is light in color.

Avoid: Avoid endive with brown discoloration, excessive dirt, or flabby, dry, yellowing leaves.

Storage: Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Preparation: Note: Don’t cook any of these vegetables in cast iron because they have a tendency to discolor.

Curly Endive and Escarole:

  1. Discard any discolored or extra-dark leaves.
  2. Cut off a thin slice from the stem end.
  3. Using a sharp paring knife, cut out and discard a cone-shaped core about 1/2 inch deep from the stem end.
  4. Separate the leaves, or cut into slices crosswise.
  5. Wash in a large amount of cold water.

Blanched Curly Endive:
It is not usually necessary to wash. Just trim and cut up as desired.

Serving Suggestions: Make Lyonnaise salad by tossing together warm bacon bits, cut up frisée, and vinaigrette dressing, then top with a poached egg. Make Italian escarole soup. Sauté escarole in olive oil with raisins and pine nuts.

Flavor Affinities: Anchovies, bacon, cured black olives, eggs, pancetta, red pepper flakes, sweet-and-sour sauces, vinegar.

from Quirk Books: