I’ve never been able to muster that much enthusiasm for the bitter leafy greens of winter. Do I like them? Sure. Do they enthuse me? Not in the slightest. It’s been over a decade since we discovered that kale can actually be edible, and what sort of exciting advancements in green-eating have we had since then? Other leafy greens, like curly endive, need breakout recipes that will convince us they can be so much more than side salad. This, dear reader, is that sort of recipe: the kind that actually makes you excited about eating leaves.
Like many bitter greens, curly endive—which your supermarket might label as “chicory” or “frisee”—tastes better when it’s generously seasoned with acid or salt. So, why not make something that goes the extra mile with both? A quick dip in piping hot water wilts the endive enough to be malleable, and it also gets this notoriously dirty vegetable sparkling clean. After wringing out the excess water, the leaves are laid out together on paper towels like a green blanket, where they are showered with lemon zest and ultra-salty minced anchovies. If anchovies are not your thing, you can replace them with a sprinkling of fancy fleur de sel, or perhaps a bit of salty cheese, such as crumbled feta or grated Pecorino Romano. There’s a lot of exciting places this dish can go if you’re willing to use your imagination.
Once the filling is in place, the greens are folded up into a neat little package, then coated in flour not once, but twice: even with the wringing and blotting the endive will still have a bit of water trapped inside of it, and a bit of extra flour will help suck all that up for when it’s time to pan fry the endive in garlic-infused olive oil. Fried capers and shaved Asiago add even more salt—with any other vegetable it would feel like too much, but with endive it’s simply perfect— and a generous spritz of freshly squeezed lemon juice brings everything together. Serve it with some simple roast chicken or, even better, throw an egg on it, and get ready to be overcome with enthusiasm for bitter leafy greens in a way you never thought possible.
Fried Curly Endive with Lemon Caper Sauce
- 1 large head curly endive
- 3-4 anchovy filets, minced
- 1 medium lemon
- 4 large cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1-2 Tbsp. capers
- Asiago cheese, for shaving
Trim off the bottom of the endive to separate the leaves. Heat a small pot of water until simmering, then throw in the endive and swish around with a set of tongs for about a minute. Once wilted, use tongs to move the endive to a colander, then pour cold water over it until cool. Pour the dirty water in the pot down the drain.
Put two layers of paper towels on a large cutting board. Use your hands to wring out as much water as possible from the endive leaves and line them up next to each other like so:
Zest the lemon and mix with the minced anchovies (how many anchovies you use is up to you and your personal tastes), then spread over the endive. Fold the endive into thirds, like a brochure. Wrap in the paper towels and roll over it with a rolling pin or the side of a can to really tamp it down and squeeze out any water that’s been too stubborn to come out. Put the flour on a plate and dredge both sides of the endive in it, then set aside to rest.
In a flat-bottomed skillet, cook the oil over high heat until it begins to shimmer. Smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife and toss into the pan, swirling the oil around to help it infuse. Cook the garlic on both sides until it’s golden and crispy, then remove to a small bowl.
Dredge the endive in flour a second time, gently shake off any excess, then lay flat in the pan and allow to fry undisturbed for three minutes. Using a spatula, carefully flip over the endive (it’s okay if it falls apart on you a bit—just use your spatula to smoosh it back together). Lower the heat to medium and cook for another two minutes, then add the capers on the sides of the pan. Keep cooking for another minute or so until the capers are brown and crispy.
Remove the endive and capers onto a plate. Cut the zested lemon into quarters and squeeze all over, then roughly chop the fried garlic and sprinkle over the endive. Shave some Asiago cheese over the top and serve immediately.