Endive, aka Belgian Endive, is a member of the chicory family, along with radicchio and escarole.
You probably know that, like most greens, it's chock-a-block with vitamins and minerals whilst being naturally low in calories.
What you may not know is it's good for more than being used as a scoop for other, high calorie food or being tossed in with other greens for a summer salad.
According to the Endive website (yes, it has it's own website):
Endive is one of the most difficult vegetables in the world to grow, requiring a two-step process before it is ready to be enjoyed.
The first growth takes about 150 days in the field, where the chicory plant grows from seed into a deep root. Tops of the leafy plant are then cut off, roots dug up, and placed in cold storage, where they enter a dormancy period.
As demand necessitates, roots are removed from cold storage for their second growth, which takes 20 to 28 days in dark, cool, and humid forcing rooms, similar to mushroom growing. Thus, endives are available year-round.
It may be available year-round (theoretically) but here in France it's season is winter.
When we first moved here I would see the local ladies piling endive into their shopping baskets – not 1 or 2 but 10 or 12 or 20. I was still of the 'fill the pretty leaves / use as a scoop' persuasion.
I decided that was probably not what they were doing with it all.
I decided it was time to learn about Endive.
Endive is easy to use – trim a few leaves if needed and you're done. It can be eaten raw or cooked.
Since I had always considered to be 'salad' food, the first thing I made was a winter salad:
Warm Stuffed Endive Salad.
Well…. That worked, so why not another….
Sautéed Endive Salad with Avocado
But the French tend to use Endive as a vegetable.
Okay, I'll be French and make a gratin.
Braising the endive in a skillet first reduces the baking time. The milk and cheese add a bit of sweetness.
1/2 cup (4oz, 120gr) chicken stock
1/4 cup (2oz, 60gr) milk
1/2 cup (2oz, 60gr) shredded cheese
Rinse endive and remove 2 or 3 outer leaves as needed. Trim the stem end. Cut each endive in half the long way through the stem. Lay in a skillet large enough to hold them flat, in one layer. Add chicken stock, cover and simmer until the stem end is tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 15 minutes. Remove endive lay in baking dish, cutting to fit if needed. Pour milk over the top, sprinkle with cheese and bake, uncovered, 400F (200C) for 15 minutes. Serve.
Lastly, I'll add my favorite Smoky Paprika and Greek Olives….
The braised endive is finished with a dash of white Balsamic vinegar, a bit of cheese and a sprinkle of olives.
2 – 3 endive, depending on size
1 cup (8oz, 240gr) chicken stock
2 tbs white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup Greek olives
1/3 cup cheese, shredded
1 tsp paprika
Rinse endive and remove 2 or 3 outer leaves as needed. Trim the stem end. Cut each endive in half the long way through the stem. Lay in a skillet large enough to hold them flat, in one layer. Add chicken stock, cover and simmer until the stem end is tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.
Pit olives, if needed and roughly chop. Shred cheese if needed. Pour off all or most of the chicken stock. Sprinkle the vinegar over the endive; top with cheese and cover until cheese melts. Remove Endive to a plate, top with olives, paprika, salt and serve.
There you have it – another vegetable to add to your winter repertoire!