Endive is usually chopped into a salad or filled with a dip of some sort of creamy filling as an appetizer. But grilling brings out the best of this vegetable.
It’s one of my favorites, Belgian Endive, a chicory, that has a slightly bitter flavor and crispy crunch. I love using it in as many preparations as possible. It is great filled with tasty treats for a party, filled with hummus for a quick lunch, or chopped into any salad to add a slightly bitter note.
When I was working at a local garden center many years ago, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at forcing the little heads, or “chicons,” but this does take a little planning and a lot of patience.
A bit of planning
First, in early spring, you need to sow the seeds of a “witloof” (Dutch for white leaf) chicory which is widely available from many seed suppliers. It likes a nice loose, well-fed organic soil, one that will easily accommodate a long taproot such as a large carrot, even longer. During the summer growing season, it is important to thin, as one does with carrots, to ensure the roots have plenty of space to grow uncrowded. You want the fattest roots possible.
In the fall, harvest the chicory and save all the largest roots to force. When I planted my “crop,” I borrowed a couple of florists’ buckets from the garden center and filled them with very loose growing mix; you can also use a five-gallon pail. I used a big stick to make holes to the bottom of the containers and nestled the roots inside, close together. I watered them and covered them with a black plastic garbage bag.
Then, I waited
They were stored in a closet, and later in the winter I began harvesting the best tasting chicons I’d ever had. The heads were a little funny looking and not as tightly held as what one finds in the store, but they were delicious, and it was fun.
Now, I went through the whole process once and probably won’t do it again, although you never know how the spirit might move me. But I gained an appreciation for all the work that goes into producing these delicious little heads of delight, and wouldn’t dream of complaining about their expense.
I love the flavor of endive when it is grilled. Still a bit bitter, but with a little more sweetness to balance it out. This salad is all about the grilled endive, and you can just grill it, place it on a bed of lettuce, top with the carrot dressing, and stop there. However, the full salad with spicy radishes, protein-rich black beans, onion, and crunchy lettuces makes this a delightful meal.
Options, of course
I used purple-colored mixed greens including lettuces and frisée (another chicory), purple Daikon and watermelon radishes, and black beans. You can use whatever baby lettuces or beans you like or can find.
The salad dressing is reminiscent of the carrot ginger dressing I get with take-out Japanese salads. I like to lightly steam the carrots before adding them to the dressing to help things become a little more creamy, but if you want more texture, leave it raw. You can use rice wine vinegar in place of the lemon for a more traditional flavor if you like, but I prefer the lemon.
If you’ve been over indulging this past month on holiday treats, this is a great main dish to give you a nutritional boost at the start of the new year!
Grilled Endive Salad with Carrot Dressing
For the dressing:
- 1 ½ cups diced carrots, steamed
- 1-inch knob ginger, chopped up
- 4 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. carrot steaming liquid
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 tsp. soy sauce, low-sodium
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. maple syrup
For the salad:
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 heads Belgian endive, quartered
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 parsnip, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
- 1 cup mixed colored baby carrots, large dice
- 1 cup radishes, ¼” dice
- 1 cup black beans
- 1 small head Boston lettuce
- 2 cups mixed baby greens
- Parsley for garnish
Make the dressing. First, steam the carrots until very tender. Drain, but save the steaming liquid.
In a small food processor, combine the ginger and garlic and finely process. Add the carrots, carrot liquid, lemon zest and juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, and maple syrup along with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Process until very smooth, and set aside.
Prepare the vegetables. Quarter both the endive and the onion by cutting lengthwise, leaving the root end intact. Cut the baby carrots into two or three pieces. Chop the radishes into small dice and set aside.
Steam the baby carrots until crisp/tender, or leave them raw if you prefer. Set aside with the radishes.
Heat a grill pan. Rub the endive, onion, and parsnip with oil and season. Grill until the vegetables have developed some color, turn, and continue grilling until just softened. You don’t want them to go too far.
Line your serving platter with the butter lettuce and fill the center with the baby greens. Mix the black beans into the radish/carrot mixture, and mound into the center. Add the grilled vegetables to the platter along with the dressing, and sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper and parsley.
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