Frisée, sometimes called Curly Endive, as it is a member of the edive/chicory family, is one of our favourite greens in the summer. It can be grilled, wilted, sautéed, and torn into pieces to add volume and depth of flavour to fresh salads. Its lightly bitter notes balance well with a number of other flavour profiles making it a great counterpoint to the sourness and acid of citrus, sweet fruits like strawberry, pear, peaches and pomegranate, and it holds its own next to salty anchovies, hard boiled eggs and pungent cheeses. Frisée’s curly leaf is also attractive to look at; bright green at its tips, where it is most tender and its bitter notes are the strongest, it fades in colour and intensity to a creamy yellow and white base, that is milder and almost sweet in flavour with a little added crunch.
Frisée’s stunning visual appeal is a result of a little manipulation knowm as “blanching” during its growth, common in the cultivation of members of the endive family; in this case, frisée’s outer leaves are tied together in a bunch which prevents the sun from reaching the inner leaves. As a result, the exterior leaves are bright green and the core is “blanched.” This leafy green is not only vibrant in colour and taste, it is packed with goodness as an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, and high concentrations of folic acid (vitamin B9) and manganese. And at a measly 4.5 calories per cup of chopped frisée (a 25 g serving) you can munch on it all the live long day.
Though it is probably best known as a salad ingredient, this green makes a great side dish too, and cooks up in a couple minutes. To grill it, leave the bunch intact and place it on a hot grill, spreading it out so it is a uniform height and as many of the leaves as possible are exposed to the coals. Let it alone for about a minute, depending on how hot your grill is, and then turn it over. The leaves will have wilted and curled a bit, and turned a toasty brown in places. The exposure to heat cooks the leaves a little and brings out its sweet side too, so the overall effect is slightly bitter, slightly sweet, a little tender and a little crunchy. All in all a really beautiful side dish, drizzled with a little fine olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a little seasoning of salt and pepper.
When it comes to salads, frisée is a show-stopper, and most frisée salads are a meal unto themselves. Just have a gander at this drool-worthy Frisée-lardon Salad with poached egg by Chef Ludo Lefebvre. And in Spain, the Catalan salad Xato is basically a national treasure, a rich, nutty Xato sauce is tossed with the curly endive and tuna (or cod), anchovy and olives. Super healthy, low in calories and delicious. Eat this all summer and in the fall you’ll be slim and healthy Xato of your former self!