Chicory is something most of us are familiar with in salads, where its bitter leaves work well with blue cheese and the like. From a chef’s point of view, however, it is far more exciting cooked than it is raw.
If you gently sauté it, it becomes sweet and caramelised, like a cross between celery and Swiss chard.
That’s the way they traditionally eat it in Sardinia and Sicily, where it is a staple vegetable. They’ll use it to cut through the richness of meat or to add a bitter note to a risotto.
It is also very good value, because every time you peel off a gem-like leaf there is another equally perfect one under it.
In my own kitchens I like to use it to season soups, which we might otherwise finish with buttered cabbage; it gives them a lovely, peppery bite.
Otherwise, if you want to tame the bitterness, you can dust it in icing sugar and let it bleed a bit, before roasting it in a hot pan and deglazing it with a little stock.
Best of all, it’s the one vegetable you can cook a few days in advance and reheat to order, because it doesn’t lose its colour.
So do give chicory a second look and allow it a new lease of life outside the salad bowl.