Much more appreciated in Europe than in the United States, the chicory family is a large one. Belgian endive, curly endive (sometimes called frisee), escarole, and radicchio are all members. Each differs considerably in appearance, color, and to some extent flavor, although all share a slightly bitter taste, and most produce a root that can be roasted, ground, and combined with coffee to create the chicory coffee beloved in French/Creole cultures.
The chicory family is a wide and varied group that can be loose-leafed or tightly-headed, tapered or round, smooth-leaved or frilled. They are also brightly colored, ranging from the purest white and pale yellow to bright green or maroon.
All members of the chicory family are flavored for the bitterness that they all share, unlike lettuces, which are chosen for their delicacy. The chicories’ bite and texture combine nicely with richer ingredients in salads, like fruits, nuts, and sharp cheeses or smoked salmon, chicken or ham.
Try chicories with the following additions: Fresh shell beans or fava beans, blanch until tender. Remember that adding vinegar or lemon juice will cut the bitterness of the choicories.