Wintertime can feel like a desert, culinarily speaking. Gone are the vivid stone fruits of summer and bright spring greens, replaced by root vegetables in varying shades of beige. Yet, the cold weather does bring its own colorful, edible bounty. ‘Tis the season of Brussels sprouts, squash, and one of my favorites: bitter greens.
If you haven’t dabbled in bitter greens, now is a great time to try. They offer versatility and health-supporting properties—and usually, the more bitter the green, the better it is for you. Novices, however, might prefer stepping gingerly into the world of these potent plants. To start, I recommend three lovely options from the chicory family.
On the mellow end of the spectrum is Belgian endive. Slightly torpedo-like in shape, with firm, pale leaves, endive makes a great vehicle for dips and spreads. Its slight bitterness is more pronounced when eaten raw; when cooked, the leaves actually take on a sweet flavor.
A few steps up the bitter ladder is radicchio, which is gorgeous to look at with its deep-red and white leaves and dainty round shape. In salads, it marries well with apple, pear, and other sweet flavors that temper the bitterness. I like it braised with a bit of garlic and olive oil and spooned over a rich fava-bean purée:
Braised radicchio over fava bean purée
Frisée is another winter green that can be prepared fresh or cooked. It sits somewhere between endive and radicchio on the bitterness spectrum, and is easy to spot by its tangled head of feathery leaves. Try it in a salad with toasted nuts and a warm vinaigrette, or simply toss a chopped handful into your next pot of soup.
Aurelia d’Andrea’s passion for travel is deeply intertwined with her love of food. Whether in Perth, Prague, or Phnom Penh, she always gravitates toward local markets in search of edible treasures, and takes pleasure in recreating tasty travel memories at home in her tiny Parisian kitchen.