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Chic-Chicory, Chic-Chicory

Posted 3/16/2018 by UHBlog

Are you ready to root for chicory? Learn more about chicory and its unique family of leafy greens that will leave a new taste in your mouth.

Chicory flowering

Move over kale, chicory may be the new chairman of the cutting board.

“Chicory is a healthy food choice just waiting to catch on,” says registered/licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator Jan Friswold. “It's related to a group of more popular salad greens like frisee, Belgium endive, escarole and radicchio.”

Records indicate ancient herbalists used wild chicory 5,000 years ago for a variety of medicinal purposes, such as healing wounds, destroying bacteria, treating gallstones and curing pulmonary disease.

In modern times, particularly during wartime rationing, ground chicory root was used to make a coffee substitute called Postum®. And in New Orleans, coffee and chicory blends have been enjoyed for centuries with a dose of warmed milk in the “au lait” style.

But when it comes to chicory’s plentiful benefits, it's time to think outside the coffee cup. Chicory root, which is nearly 65 percent of fiber by weight, is one of the best prebiotic fiber sources around.

According to Friswold, prebiotic fiber – which can also be found in bananas, onions, asparagus, barley, rye, artichokes and whole wheat – contains oligofructose and inulin, which feeds digestive flora in the intestines.

“Prebiotic fibers are undigested as they pass through the stomach and small intestine,” she says. “The prebiotic fibers are digested by the good bacteria in the large intestine, which, in turn, produce short-chain fatty acids and other chemicals that help promote hunger control, stabilize blood glucose, lower the risk of colon cancer and improve calcium absorption.”

Because of its prebiotic fibers, chicory root is used by some commercial food manufacturers to help improve the flavor, texture and richness of food. Some examples are: Dreamfield® pasta, Stonyfield® yogurt, Fiber-one® bars and Kraft Live Active® cheese products.

The good news is that you can grow your own chicory or any of its colorful relatives, like endive and radicchio, in your own backyard. Keep in mind that chicory’s leaves, which can be used in a variety of recipes, have a mild, bitter taste. This bitterness helps balance the sweet, salty and sour notes found in other foods.

Although it’s hard to eat too much chicory or escarole, Friswold cautions against taking chicory supplements if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have gallbladder issues.

If you’re ready to try your hand at making some nutritious recipes using chicory leaves, its bite and texture combines nicely with richer ingredients in salads like nuts, olives, fruits, ham, thinly sliced meats, sardines and cheese.

Friswold suggests the following recipes to enjoy chicory’s nutritional benefits.

One-Pot Chicory Soup

Serves 2 – 4

This one pot chicory soup takes less than 30 minutes to throw together – perfect for an easy weeknight meal when you’re in the mood for something healthy and delicious.

  • 1 medium white onion chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil for sautéing
  • ½ cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • two handfuls chicory greens, chopped
  • 2 cups whole grain or gluten-free pasta, dry
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups water
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ tsp. old bay seasoning (optional but recommended)

Bring a “glug” of olive oil to medium heat in your pot. Add in chopped onion, carrots and celery, and sauté until onions are translucent (about five to 10 minutes). Then add vegetable stock and water, and bring to a boil. Once broth is boiling, add in the pasta. Let broth simmer for as long as pasta needs to cook, according to the package's directions. Once pasta is al dente, add in salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning to taste. Right before serving, add in chicory greens.

Cook’s note: If you can’t find chicory greens, you can substitute arugula. Like young chicory leaves, arugula is slightly bitter with a mild peppery taste.

Source: Well and Full

Salmon and Dill Chicory Boats

Serves 2 – 4

  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, small, seeded, finely diced
  • 8.75 ounces Gravlax (or smoked salmon) cut into thin strips
  • 16 leaves large chicory or Belgium endive
  • 4 radishes, large, trimmed, sliced

Whisk together mustard and honey. Add 2 tbsp. dill. Toss with diced cucumber and salmon. Season. Slightly overlap chicory leaves to make 8 “boats.” Fill with salmon and cucumber mixture. Garnish with remaining dill. Serve with sliced radishes.

Source: RecipesPlus

Jan Friswold, RDN, LD, CDE is a registered/licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Friswold or any other healthcare professional online.

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