Frisée means curly in French, and its tightly wound bitter leaves are crunchy, springy, and delicately bitter. They're also a delicious winter salad base with an unusual winter fruit...
Frisée isn't exactly in season, sure - we admit that. But we found big bags of it at Trader Joe's and were longing for greens. You may also be able to find it grown in local greenhouses, and soon it will be fully in season in the north and east. It's an early spring vegetable, since the full sun of summer over-develops Frisée into dark green, inedibly bitter lettuce.
The pale white and yellow frisée has a more delicately bitter taste that we find cleansing and refreshing in the winter. It's usually mixed into mesclun or used as a bitter complement in more balanced salads, but here we use it on its own. We balanced a meal of spicy curry and creamy yogurt sauce with this bitter and sweet salad - dressed with walnut oil and garnished with another Trader Joe's find: bright red currants.
We'd been eyeing the currants for a while and they are a deliciously unexpected note here: fresh, bitterly green and bright salad, with sweet-tart red berries, crunchy cucumbers, and a splash of vinegar. Serve in small quantities; this salad is a good between-courses palate cleanser.
Frisée Salad with Red Currants
1 small head frisée, washed and dried
1/2 English cucumber, peeled
4-5 ounces red currants, carefully picked over and washed
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup salted unroasted cashews
Salt and pepper
Wash and dry the frisée and tear by hand into small, bite-size pieces. Slice the cucumber very thin. Toss the lettuce, cucumber, and cashews.
Whisk the oil and vinegar together to taste and toss with the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and divide among four salad plates. Sprinkle the currants evenly over the four plates and serve immediately.