Ever thought of adding a little Italian ‘bitterness’ into your life? Well, adding radicchio and frisée to your salads will bring just that- a lively spicy bitterness. They not only taste good but they are packed with wonderful healing nourishing goodness.
Italians love their greens, especially the springtime bitters that are emerging right now (unless you live in the artic blast zone in America:). I have grown accustomed to adding bitter greens to my salads and eating my salads after my main meals. I just love how the acidity helps with the cleansing of my palate, and the olive oil aids in the digestion of my meal. Some folks even say that the acidity of the vinegar (or lemons) can compete with the acidity of the wine, and can overwhelm the palate, so they eat their salads after their main courses.
Two bitter greens that I try to have on hand each week are frisée and radicchio. If you are not aware of them, or not used to buying them at the store I encourage you to do so. You will be amazed, especially after reading about the health benefits they bring to you below.
Frisée (or escarole) is an endive that is closely related to chicory. Its crisp leaves are packed with a peppery bitter flavor that combines well with other greens. It comes with an abundance of health benefits as it is packed with vitamins A and C, ß-carotene, B-complex, low in calories, high in fiber, and numerous minerals (potassium, manganese, copper, and iron). Some recent research shows that the higher levels of inulin and fiber can help reduce glucose and LDL-cholesterol levels, especially with diabetics and obese patients.
Radicchio, also related to chicory, brings to a salad a pleasing bitter taste and unique health benefits. It is packed with lactucopicrin, which has a potent anti-malarial agent in it, and also sedative and analgesic properties. It also comes packed with phenolic flavonoid antioxidants that help protect your eyes from ultra-violet rays (and future macular disease). It is filled with vitamins K and the complex-B group, and the same minerals as in frisée.
If you are hesitant about adding so much bitterness at once into your diet, then slowly work it in over time. Bitters can be added to any salad, in any amount, to bring a little of that spicy kick you are looking for, and the added health benefits your body needs. And in time you may find yourself going for the straight radicchio and frisée salad with garlic and a fresh spicy olive oil!
The main thing is to have fun adding a little Italian spicy ‘bitterness’ into your life!
- Frisée (or any other type of endive)
- Garlic (optional)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar of your choice
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Gently remove the leaves of the radicchio. Then wash the frisée and radicchio thoroughly with cold water and let dry. Gently tear apart the radicchio leaves and frisée into desired size pieces with your hands, please do not cut.
- If you desire to add a little extra spiciness to the salad, add in 3-5 slivers of fresh garlic now. This will mix well with the oil.
- Right before serving the salad, lightly salt, and add the necessary amount of olive oil (just enough to cover the leaves, there is no need to drown them). Lightly (and I mean lightly) massage the oil onto the leaves with your hands. This will help protect them from the acidity of the balsamic vinegar. Aim for using the best you have for your salads, the flavor and aroma will go a long way in making any old salad spectacular.
- Then add the desired amount of balsamic vinegar. Lightly massage with your hands.
- Then lightly top with salt (if needed) and freshly ground black pepper.
One of my favorite balsamic vinegars that I almost always use on my salads is a white balsamic. I prefer the gentle savory flavor it adds to the bitters in the salad. Again, look for something of a higher quality here.
If the salad is too bitter for you, add in some arugula, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce, or any other green that is less bitter.