The Produce Bible includes tips on selecting, storing and preparing fruits and vegetables plus recipes like Belgian Endive with Olives, Anchovies, and Caperberries, Black Sticky Rice with Taro, and Poached Tamarillo with Vanilla Bean Cream Pots.
Season: Winter-Early Spring
Noted for its slightly bittersweet flavor and featuring compact, slender, elongated heads consisting of yellow (or pink) tipped, cream leaves, Belgian endives (also called French endive and witlof) did not really take off until the twentieth century when its cultivation began in earnest. Expensive and labor-intensive to harvest, Belgian endive is grown in the dark, using a technique called blanching, to prevent sunlight from creating chlorophyll, which would turn its white leaves green. It is then hand-picked and stored carefully wrapped to prevent exposure to light, which even at this stage would turn it green and make it bitter. While not as nutrient rich as green vegetables, Belgian endive contains vitamin A, potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate, and some iron.
Selection and Storage
Look for crisp, tightly packed heads with pale, yellow-green or pink tips. Belgian endive is highly perishable and increases in bitterness the longer it is stored, so wrap it in a paper towel, place inside a plastic bag, then keep in the refrigerator vegetable crisper for no more than 1 day.
For other Belgian endive recipes see:
Pear and Walnut Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing (page 138 of the book)
Fava Bean Rotollo with Salad Greens (page 372 of the book)
To prepare Belgian endive, cut away the base, then separate leaves and wash under cold running water; do not soak as this tips the balance of the flavor to the sour side of bittersweet. Do not use cast-iron utensils tor cooking, as they will turn the leaves an unappealing shade of gray.
Cut heads in half and pack snugly into an ovenproof dish. Add hot chicken stock to cover to halfway, cover the dish with foil and cook in a 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes until tender.
To sauté Belgian endive, simply cut into chunks and toss in a large frying pan with plenty of butter over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until softened and golden.
Introduced to Paris to rave reviews in 1872, Belgian endive was so revered that it became, known as "white gold." There is a restaurant called Traiteur Restaurant Veilinghof, in the Belgian town of Kampenhout, the hometown of Belgian endive, whose menu is entirely devoted to the vegetable. On the menu are fifty Belgian endive dishes, heaven for the true aficionado.
Chop the olives and put them in a small bowl. Finely chop the anchovies and add them to the olives. Chop two of the caperberries to the size of baby capers and add to the olives. Add half the olive oil and mix together.
Discard the outer leaves and cut the heads of the Belgian endives in half lengthwise. Open out the leaves a little and spoon the olive mixture over and between the leaves. Join the two halves together again and tie to secure with string.
Heat the remaining oil and the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the Belgian endives, garlic, and chili flakes, if using them, then cover and braise for 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through. Add a little hot water if necessary to prevent sticking.
To serve, untie the string and arrange four equal portions of Belgian endive, cut side up, on a serving plate. Spoon over any pan juices. Slice the remaining caperberries in half lengthwise and sprinkle them over the top. Serve hot.
This page created May 2007
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