What is Frisee?
Frisee is a salad green in the chicory family, along with Belgian endive, radicchio, and escarole. Also called curly endive, frisee lettuce has long, narrow leaves which are extremely curly. They shroud the more tender whitish stalks and yellow branches. The leaves are usually a pale to bright green, although they can have reddish hues along the edges. Frisee can be described as a bitter salad green, although it also has a slightly nutty taste.
Popular in Europe as a salad green, frisee lettuce has only recently been popularized by the restaurant community in America, which has embraced this interesting and dynamic salad green. Although it is difficult to find frisee at the grocery store, it is often found at farmer’s markets and upscale grocers. Once purchased, frisee lettuce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week in a ventilated bag, or loosely wrapped with a wet towel.
Nutrition in This Unique Salad Green
A green leafy vegetable, frisee is packed with nutrients, and very low in calories. It is an excellent source of folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin C, with approximately one third the daily recommended amount of each, in a single serving. Frisee lettuce is also a good source of vitamin K, and manganese.
What is the nutritional value of frisee? Its vitamin A content maintains healthy eyes, moistens the skin, and acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals in the body that would otherwise damage cells. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant. It is necessary for the synthesis of collagen, and immune health. Vitamin K’s primary role is to prevent blood loss by forming blood clots, but it also helps to link calcium to bone. Folic acid is involved with a number of reactions, including energy production, and nerve cell development. It is one of the most essential nutrients for a healthy pregnancy. Manganese as well serves a number of functions, from body metabolism to brain health.
Ideas for Eating Frisee
There are endless ways to serve frisee lettuce. It can be used as a salad green, as a cooked side dish, or even as a decorative addition to main courses. The important thing to keep in mind with consuming frisee is that it is a bitter green, pleasing to some, and too intense for others. This is why it is often tossed with other greens to make a salad, adding a contrasting flavor, but not overwhelming.
As a single salad green frisee can be incredibly delicious. Use strong flavors to match the impact of frisee - tart vinegars, such as raspberry, apple cider, or white wine vinegar, crumbled bleu cheese, salty bacon, or tangy fruits such as sliced pears or apples. Try a frisee salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette (olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and diced bacon) and a poached egg. Make a dressing out of walnut oil and raspberry vinegar, and drizzle over frisee lettuce with goat cheese and chopped walnuts. Cooking frisee actually minimizes the bitter flavor. Steam this green with garlic, butter, and diced green onions.
Frisee is a very delicate vegetable. It should be torn by hand as opposed to cutting. Too much exposure to oxygen as well as vinegar can cause the leaves to wilt so dress right before serving. One way to revive a bunch of frisee lettuce that is beginning to fade is to dip in tepid water, followed by ice water.
Introduce yourself to the nutritional value of frisee and to the unique texture and flavor of this salad green if you haven’t already.
This post is part of the series: What’s in Your Salad?
The days of iceberg lettuce are over. Other, more interesting greens are the new salad greens. Frisee, arugula, endive, and spinach just to name a few are revolutionizing healthy eating. They are packed with nutrition and disease-preventing phytochemicals, not to mention flavor and complexity.