I answered my cell phone and heard Giuliano on the line saying…. “You just received a Valentine’s bouquet, care to explain?” Huh? I had no idea what he was talking about. “Rather unusual, I must say” he continued, “it’s belgian endive.” Oops…. I had completely forgotten that California Vegetable Specialties (CVS) was going to send me a box of endive for Valentine’s Day. It was a marvelous gift from and we are most appreciative.
Endive, either curly or the smoother Belgian version, is a versatile vegetable that is often found in Italian cooking. Part of the chicory family, it comes in many varieties that range in flavor from mild to sharp. For those who find the bitterness of chicory a bit bracing, cooking it brings out its sweetness.
Originating in the Veneto region of Italy, many of Italian cities are known for their particular kind of what they call radicchio. As we walk with our cooking school students through the crowded pathways of the Padua market we are often regaled by the beauty and multitude of the variety and colors. It’s tempting to buy them all, and often we will bring some back to the kitchen to prepare for the evening’s cooking class.
Our family has a mantra, use only the best ingredients and use them with thought and care. This includes everything from vegetables, to herbs, to olive oil. Recently there has been much discussion on whether to use extra-virgin olive oil when cooking. Our answer is of course! Since we are using olive oil for the flavor it gives a dish, why would we want to use an oil with no flavor? We would like you to try the single varietal, 100% Ogliarola olive, extra virgin olive oil we import from Apulia and to hear what you think of it.
We love to add belgian endive to our salads. Remember, the tender heart, just below the base of the leaves, is the best part. We also love using it to make a pasta sauce with pancetta. In Italy, we usually find it in the fall. But CVS has figured out a way to grow it year around so we can have it anytime we wish.
A wonderful way of preparing endive is to grill it, which gives it a deep, nutty flavor and sweetens it. Last week Giuliano grilled some and the children liked it so much it was gone in an instant.
Grilled Belgian Endive
© 2011 by Giuliano Hazan
Serves 4 people as a side dish
Cooking Time: 25 minutes total
4 heads Belgian Endive
about 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the grill
2. Cut the Belgian endive in half lengthwise, make a deep incision at the root end. Drizzle a little of the olive oil on the cut side and season with salt. Place the endive on the grill with the cut side facing the fire. Turn them over when they are lightly charred and drizzle a little more olive oil over them. Continue cooking until they are tender, total cooking time should be about 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, drizzle olive oil over them one last time, and season with some fresh black pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.