Produce of the Month
Produce of the Month: Endives!
6.1.18–This month, we want to highlight a perplexing and fascinating vegetable–the endive. With its many varieties, including the vampire-like Belgian endive, this vegetable deserves a closer look.
Background + History
There are three main varieties of endive, each with their own distinct look and taste. Belgian endives, also known as witloof (white leaf in Dutch), is a pale, bullet-shaped vegetable with tightly packed leaves and a bitter taste. Curly endive, which is often mistaken for chicory in the U.S., grows in loose heads with curly, lacey outer leaves. Escarole is of the same genus and species as curly endive but has broad green leaves and is less bitter than the other two. Endives and chicory are often mistaken
Historically, endives were grown in large quantities in Western Europe for their roots, which were dried and used to make a dark, bitter drink similar to coffee. The story goes that sometime between the mid and late 1800s, a Belgian farmer headed off to war, leaving his crop of harvested chicory roots in a cellar. He returned to find that these roots had sprouted heads of blanched, yellowish-white leaves with a mild flavor. And thus the Belgian Endive was born.
If you’re looking for a field full of these pale yellow beauties, you’ll have to look again. The growing cycle of a Belgian endive is a strange and laborious one that begins out in the field like any normal vegetables, but with a twist. Seeds are planted in the spring and harvested in the autumn when the plants reach maturity. With the roots pulled out of the soil, the tops are trimmed off, and the roots are placed in a warm, dark space for the second period of growth. Grown in complete darkness, these endives grow from the roots as a tight bunch with a spooky, pale yellow look and a mild bitterness. Unlike vampires, these little guys are highly prized for their look and taste, and even referred to as white gold.
Endive Salad with Walnuts, Chopped Pear, and Blue Cheese
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Pre times: 10 minutes
Yields 2 to 3 servings
3 Endive heads, sliced first lengthwise, then crosswise in 1/2-inch slices
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese
1 bartlett pear, cored and chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 teaspoons cider vinegar (balsamic is good too)
Sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the chopped endive in a large bowl. Add the walnuts, crumbled gorgonzola, and chopped pears. Toss to combine. Drizzle olive over the salad. Drizzle cider vinegar over the salad. Toss to combine. Season to taste with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Serve immediately.