Whether you pronounce it “ahn-DEEV” or “en-DIVE,” this bitter leafy green imparts a rich blend of nutrients (particularly folate and vitamins A and K). This high-fiber food belongs to the daisy family and comes in various shades of green and tones of bitterness. Like many greens, endive can be eaten raw in fresh green salads, cooked into soups and stews, or sautéed on its own for a healthy side dish.
Cultivated in Europe since the 16th century, endive is popular in the fall and winter, thanks to its hardy nature as a late-season crop. Allowing you to source seasonal ingredients and still eat fresh, this perky winter green is a welcome addition to cold-weather dishes when other produce isn’t readily available.
You’ll come across a couple of main types of endive at the farmers market:
Escarole or broad-leaved endive – Less bitter than other varieties of endive, this plant features broad leaves that are pale green. It’s also called scarole, scarola, grumolo, Batavian endive or Bavarian endive. Broad-leaved endive is more often used in cooking.
Frisée or curly endive – With curly outer leaves that are narrow and brighter green-yellow, frisée is also called chicory or chicorée frisée. Curly endive has finely dissected edges and is more often used raw in salads. This exotic gourmet vegetable is very popular in France, where it’s often served with a sharp, sour dressing.
Belgian endive – Sorry, but Belgian endive isn’t actually endive. It’s a cultivated variety of common chicory like radicchio or puntarelle – a close cousin, but no cigar. Belgian endive has a small head of flavorful cream-colored leaves and is also called witlof, chicon, chicory, indivia or even: endive.
Whether you choose escarole or frisée, these bitter greens offer a mature, nuanced flavor to dishes. A head of endive should be firmly packed with unblemished leaves, and can range in size from softball to soccer ball. Endive will keep in your refrigerator for up to four days; wrap it in paper towels and store in an unsealed plastic bag. Try the follow tips to incorporate endive into your diet, and remember that the outer leaves will always be tougher and more flavorful than the inner leaves.
Escarole – If you’re new to the world of bitter greens, start your endive tour with escarole. With a milder taste than frisée, escarole can shine as the sole star of a green salad with tomatoes, croutons and a light vinaigrette or mayonnaise-based dressing. You can also sauté escarole with a little garlic and oil, or cut it into fine strips and add to soups and stews.
Frisée – With its strong flavor, a little bit of frisée goes a long way. Use the tender inner leaves and be wary of any dark green outer leaves, as they may be tough and difficult to eat. Prepare frisée right before you serve it, as it becomes discolored quickly after it is torn. Add small nests of frisée to fresh green salads, or as bright garnishes on omelets and other breakfast dishes. Frisée is ideal in gourmet salads with complex, strong vinaigrettes.
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Image: Suzie's Farms