Endive Varieties are Not Just for Salads
Curly Endive and escarole, which is the flat leafed version, make up the two plants that are known as endive. Escarole has a milder flavor. Endive is a slightly bitter green which is used to add flavor, texture, and variety to salads. These greens are rich in fiber, and also in vitamins A, B, and C, and calcium, phosphorus and iron.
Belgian Endive is a different beast, although related. Belgian endive is much milder, and is grown in a special way, it complete darkness, to achieve that mildness. Its creamy white color results when the chicory roots are planted in darkness. This causes the growth to elongate into the familiar torpedo shape. It is rich in fiber, folic acid, potassium, and vitamin C.
Curly endive and escarole are used to give bite to salads, and are used in Mediterranean cooking to add flavor and color to soups. They can also be sauteed in olive oil and garnished with dried fruits and nuts. They benefit from umami rich foods such as bacon and anchovy, and from fruits and acidic vinaigrette.
The curvy boat-shaped leaves of Belgian endive are often used as a vessel for other foods. It can also be stuffed and baked. It is great in salads, particularly with fruit, and it is great steamed and topped with bechamel. It is also commonly braised. Cooking Belgian endive makes the flavor milder, which makes it an interesting partner for roasted beets, or an addition to a savory tart.
All three endives make lovely toppings for sandwiches, adding a little bite that is welcome on a hearty stack. They all can be added to the top of hot flatbreads or pizza raw, or cooked on top for an interesting fresh addition.
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