Something truly magical happens when you grill chicories. Their sharpness starts to mellow, giving way to a subtle sweetness and nutty flavor. Their outer leaves caramelize and char, taking on a delicate smokiness. Their cores retain a pleasing crunch and fresh, bitter bite. Chicories’ bold flavor pair well with equally vibrant, punchy dressings, like this one bolstered by spicy serrano chiles, a hearty dose of garlic, and aromatic fennel seeds.
But before you light the grill, let’s talk types of chicories. The dish’s overall bitterness will depend on the type of chicory you choose. If you want something a little milder, go with endive, which grills up to be surprisingly sweet with hazelnut-like nuttiness. If you crave that bitter greens flavor, choose radicchio, Treviso or Castelfranco. These types of chicories give you a bolder, bigger flavor.
I like a mix of the two, giving my guests a choose-your-own-chicory adventure. Whatever you decide, make sure to use a tight-leafed chicory and not something frilly, like frisée, because those delicate leaves will burn when grilling. If you aren’t a fan of chicories, this recipe will work with romaine lettuce as well.
This salad makes a great partner for grilled meats like flank steak or tri-tip, chicken, and pork shoulder steaks. If you’re looking to bulk the salad up without adding meat, these chicories also love the addition of baby potatoes (grilled, boiled, or roasted), planks of feta or grilled halloumi, or halved jammy-yolked eggs. —Asha Loupy
- Prep time 35 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
medium garlic cloves, peeled
serrano chile, whole
freshly squeezed lemon juice
extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds
mixed chicories, like endive, Treviso, radicchio, or Castelfranco
2 to 3 tablespoons
extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Flaky salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel, for garnishing
- Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. If you’re using a charcoal grill, let the coals cool a bit, so they are not red hot. Alternatively, you can use a grill pan and grill the chicories in batches at high heat.
- While the grill is heating, make the dressing. To start, toast the fennel seeds. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fennel seeds and cook until they start to turn golden and fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer the toasted fennel seeds to a mortar and pound the seeds into a very coarse powder.
- Roughly chop the garlic and chile and transfer to the mortar. Add the salt and pound into a paste. (Alternatively, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can roughly chop the toasted fennel seeds and microplane the whole garlic cloves and whole chile. You’ll just add the salt along with the lemon juice in the next step.)
- Transfer the chile-fennel paste to a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice and whisk to combine. Allow to macerate for 5–10 minutes at room temperature (this will infuse all that spicy fennel-y goodness into the dressing). To finish the dressing, slowly whisk the olive oil into the mixture, in a slow, steady stream. Continue to whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Set aside.
- Cut the smaller chicories (like endive and Treviso) in half and any larger, tighter headed chicories (like radicchio and Castelfranco) into quarters. Place on a sheet pan. Brush every surface of the cut chicories with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the chicories, cut side down onto the grill. Grill the greens until they start to char and begin to wilt, about 1–3 minutes for the smaller chicories and 2–4 minutes for the larger ones. Flip and continue to cook until the outer leaves start to turn golden brown, about another 1–2 minutes. For the larger chicories, you’ll have to rotate them three times, cooking them on both cut sides and the outer side. As the chicories are cooked, remove them from the grill and transfer them back to the sheet pan.
- To assemble the dish, arrange the grilled chicories on a serving platter, pulling the leaves apart slightly. Give the reserved dressing another whisk to re-emulsify it, if you need to, and spoon over the grilled chicories, making sure to get it in all the nooks and crannies of the greens. Finish with a sprinkling of flaky salt and serve warm or at room temperature.