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Friday, April 18, 2014

Belgian Endive

Belgian Endive:

Belgian endive is also called whiteleaf  chickory or witloof chickory.  It is a salad "green" that is grown indoors away from light.  Belgian endive belongs to the chickory family  along with curly chickory, radicchio, and escarole.  There are two main varieties of cultivated endive: Curly endive or "frise'e with narrow green curly leaves; and  Escarole, which is broad leaved and has pale green leaves, and is less bitter that other varieties.  Belgian endive has been around for thousands of years, and was grown by the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians.  

Belgian endive is rich in many vitamins, especially in folate, and vitamins A and K.  It is also high in fiber.   Belgian endive is available year round, but is best during cool spring weather between March and June.  

I remember Belgian endive from my days at my grandfather's store.  We called its cousin with the narrow, green, curly outer leaves, "chickory".  Later when I moved to Florida  in the supermarket they called chickory "endive" which was strange to me.  

Belgian endive can be prepared many different ways including steaming, boilng, baking or saute'ing.  The leaves can be stuffed, served in soups, added to stir-fried meals, or prepared raw and put into salads.   Normally, due to the bitter taste of raw Belgian endive when served in salads, it is balanced by some sort of sweet fruit , like apples, oranges, or raspberries.   The tender leaves add a distinctive bittersweet flavor when sliced and eaten raw in a salad.  It is also tender and delicate when lightly braised and served as a side vegetable.  

Select endive that is crisp with white and yellow leaves.  Any green will be bitter tasting.  The green indicates the plant is old.  Short fat heads are better than long thin ones.   The plant should be crisp looking with no brown spots or wilted edges.  Store in a cool dark place.  Wrap in paper towel and put in a plastic bag.  Do not wash until ready to use.  Do not submerge in water, but wipe with a damp cloth.   Use within 3 to 5 days.

So........ Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but good:

Roasted Belgian Endive

6 - 8 heads of Belgian endive (less if you like)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 
Sea salt  and Cracked Black pepper to taste
2 tablesoons of balsamic vinegar 

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Clean the heads of endive by wiping with a damp cloth.  Cut the heads in half lengthwise.  Toss the halves in the extra virgin olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Dress the roasted endives with the balsamic vinegar.