Chicory comes in many forms, consider the fact that frisée and radicchio are both considered chicories. Belgian endive is another chicory and is arguably the most common version. Chicory is versatile and both the leaves and the root are useful. Consider the following seriously delectable chicory uses – using all aspects of the herb.
Make a coffee substitute
Chicory root has a long history as a caffeine-free alternative to regular coffee. You can also add it to coffee to lessen the caffeine content. Chicory coffee is popular in Louisiana among other places. You make it by roasting pieces of chicory root and grinding them as you would grind coffee beans.
While some people find raw chicory to be unbearably bitter, others find that its astringency makes it a delightful counterpart to sweeter vegetables. Chop it up and add it to a regular salad as one of the greens. Its bitterness will help it to stand apart in a pleasing way. You can also blanch it for a couple of minutes to wilt the leaves slightly. Blanching has the effect of removing some of the bitterness.
Chicory is one of those vegetables that you can cook in numerous ways. Grilling it gives it a smoky, savory flavor that complements its mild bitterness. To grill chicory, you will want to halve or quarter the heads to make them cook more efficiently. You should also coat them liberally with olive oil to ensure even browning. A head of chicory should take only a few minutes to cook. Properly grilled chicory is soft and flavorful; the leaves should be a medium brown.
Chicory stands up well to boiling. The addition of vinegar to the water can keep it from discoloring and may help to lessen the bitterness. As when grilling, you should cut chicory heads into halves or quarters before you boil them to ensure efficient and even cooking. While it is possible to enhance the flavor of chicory by adding spices to the water, this is not necessary since chicory is flavorful enough on its own. Use a little salt and lemon juice for a cleaner flavor.
The leaves are not the only part of the chicory plant that you can eat, the root is edible as well. Boiling is the preferred way to cook chicory root when consuming it as a vegetable.
Because chicory handles boiling so well, it is great in soups. You will find it in classic Italian soup recipes such as white bean soup with chicory. Its bitterness contrasts well with other flavors and textures in white bean soup, such as the creaminess and umami properties that you get from the beans and from the parmesan cheese that is sprinkled on top.
Steaming chicory is arguably the best cooking method since it is more likely to keep the nutrients and flavor intact — they won’t leach out the way they might with other cooking methods. You also don’t risk burning the chicory since it is not exposed to an open flame the way it is on a grill. Steaming also cooks the leaves quickly; they should have a soft texture within a few minutes. Serve with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Chicory can be sauteed in olive oil with garlic in much the same way that you would sautee kale and other similar greens. Cooking chicory until it wilts not only softens the leaves, it takes away much of the bitterness as well.