The virtues of bitter lettuce
Chicory (curly endive), Belgian endive, escarole (a type of endive), radicchio – these are some bitter lettuces that are becoming more and more well-known.
And, they are now readily available on grocery store shelves because they are locally produced.
In Quebec, they are mostly added to salads, mixed in with other types of lettuce. However, it is important to note that these bitter lettuces – especially the red ones – contain antioxidants.
Their bitterness, which is more or less pronounced, also gives dishes that extra punch (if needed). The French and Italians are particularly fond of them and what’s more: they can be prepared in many ways.
There are two specialties this week:
First, an Escarole soup with turkey meatballs, prepared in the same way southern Italians make it.
The second is a Curly endive salad with croutons and bacon, a traditional French dish.
Whichever bitter lettuce you decide to go with, you should select lettuces with really firm leaves that have full colour (read: no brown spots). Wash them only when you are preparing your recipe.
To reduce the bitterness of the leaves, soak them in cold water for 10 minutes before preparing them.
Originally published in the Journal de Montréal on July 26, 2008.