Locally grown pedigree sweetens bitter greens

Between berries, tree fruit, corn, melon, tomatoes and more, summer is a season of sweetness.

Bitter greens, however, are abundant at local grocers. And many of these chicory-family members are locally grown, to boot. Escarole and radicchio that I recently purchased at Medford’s Food 4 Less boast the “Rogue Valley Grown” band. Add the Belgian endive that Food 4 Less has only recently begun to stock (oh, joy!), and you’ve got all the ingredients for this distinctive and supremely simple salad from the Chicago Tribune.

As food writer Leah Eskin points out, these sturdy greens require virtually no prep time. They hold up better than lettuce does to the rigors of transport and refrigerator storage. Even if chicories cost a few cents more per pound, there’s almost always less waste compared with lettuce. And unlike capricious lettuce, they’ll keep in the crisper for a week or longer, just biding their time for salad inspiration to strike.

Freshly shelled English peas prompted me last week to hard-boil some eggs and fry some bacon, finally using the bacon fat for a warm, mustard-infused vinaigrette. Whereas lettuce would melt upon dousing with hot grease, escarole and its cousin frisee — or curly endive — stand up to the treatment. Their bitterness is the ideal counterpoint to so many other rich and savory ingredients.

This recipe, inspired by Bon Appetit magazine, isn’t quite so decadent, serving more as a palate cleanser. But it does incorporate mustard, sweetened with a bit of honey. Grab the greens to make it while they last.

Tribune News Service photo

Chicory Salad

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons honey (warm briefly to make measuring easier)

1 large head escarole, leaves separated and torn

1 large head frisee or 2 heads Belgian endive, leaves separated and torn

1 large (or 2 small) head(s) radicchio, leaves separated and torn

1/4 cup snipped fresh chives

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, oil and honey.

In a large salad bowl, toss together the escarole, frisee, radicchio and chives.

Drizzle greens with dressing to taste. Season with the salt and pepper. Toss.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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