A light and refreshing side to those hearty cold weather meals.
At this time of year, daylight is precious, the weather chills and we tend toward heartier suppers. Soups, stews, casseroles, all help to warm the body here in the north country. A welcome addition to any winter supper is a side salad that refreshes and gives us pause in all that richness.
Belgium endive is a favorite winter vegetable. The forced, blanched sprouts from the luscious chicory plant may not be much to look at, but they lend a crispness, a little bitterness, and a lot of interest to any salad. They also make great scoops for dips and spreads! I didn’t grow up with this vegetable, I doubt it was even available in our local market. But once I discovered it, I was always on the lookout.
Have you ever thought of growing your own? Although simple, growing and forcing chicory, takes nearly a year from start to finish. But one spring when I worked at a local garden center, we decided to make a project of it, and had a little competition going.
In June, we planted the tiny little chicory seeds in very loose soil in raised beds. What you aim for is a harvest of beautiful thick roots, so you want to give them plenty of room to stretch and fatten.
There are many varieties of chicory, but the usual variety to force is Witlof, or Witloof, a Dutch chicory, commonly found from most good seed suppliers. This is the same chicory the roots of which are harvested and dried to be used as a coffee substitute.
Who in the world thought of doing this?
I shall digress for just a moment. Who thought of doing this, growing the plants all season then tossing the leaves, only to force a tight little blanched head totally different from the original? The story we hear repeated over and over is that a Belgian farmer had grown chicory for a coffee-like beverage, but was called to war in the mid-19th century. While off to battle, his stored roots sprouted, and once he returned home safely from war, he discovered the little sprouts, tasted them, and enjoyed them. Of course, we don’t know if this is true, but it makes a good story, and since the production of the forced heads did originate in Belgium, I’ll go with it.
The first harvest
For our experiment, once the chicory reached its full growth and a frost was in the forecast, we harvested our roots, cut off the greens to an inch, and let them cure for a few days under their green tops to dry out. Then, we chose the fattest roots to force (although many of mine were not as large as I had hoped for) and popped them in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks for a little chill period.
After that, we filled floral buckets with very loose loam and used a dowel to make long channels to accommodate the roots, leaving the very top of the roots exposed.
Then it was time to wait. We dampened the soil and covered the pots with black plastic bags and tucked them away in a very cool closet for two months, checking occasionally to ensure they did not dry out, but taking care to keep the light away from them. The coolness keeps the sprouts tight, and the dark lets them blanch to remove much of the bitterness.
The second harvest
Because I started with such small roots, I was totally convinced it would not work, and after watering them a time or two and seeing nothing happen, I kind of forgot them toward the end. However, I was delighted by the outcome. Some were quite small, the heads were also a little looser than what you buy at the market, but they were creamy white and absolutely delicious! I didn’t win the competition, but I remember making a simple salad that night and enjoying every bite, after all, it took almost a year to make!
Have I grown them since? Nope. But I think about my little crop when I buy a lovely little head of endive at the market!
But you don’t have to grow yours from scratch, you can find Belgium endive in most markets today. All the chicories are nutritional powerhouses, and the endive is no exception. With less than 10 calories a chopped cup, this endive is rich in vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A, C, K, and B, and it’s a good source of potassium, folate, iron, calcium, ad fiber. It also contains kaempferol, a cancer fighting nutrient that is being studied widely.
A simple delicious salad with lots of nutrition
And it tastes good! This salad is really quick to make, delicious, and satisfying with a little sweet and succulent from the grapes, honey, and cucumber, mild bitter from the endive, tanginess from the mustard and capers, grassiness from the parsley, and lovely crunch from the nuts. Don’t be afraid to make substitutions, use what you have on hand, and adjust for your own taste.
It is even tastier the next day!
Tangy Endive Salad
- Two large heads of Belgium endive, sliced or chopped
- I medium English cucumber, chopped
- Handful of grapes, sliced in half
- ¼ cup flat-leaved parsley, chopped, packed
- 1/3 cup almonds, or nuts of choice, rough chop
- 2 tbsp. cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 tbsp. grainy mustard
- 1 tbsp. capers, crushed a bit
- 1 tsp. caper brine
- 3 tbsp. fruity olive oil
Slice or chop the endive and place in a large bowl. Add the cucumber, grapes, parsley, and half the almonds and mix well.
In a canning or other jar, combine vinegar, syrup, mustard, capers, brine, and olive oil along with a good pinch of salt, and shake well. You can also add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to add a little heat.
Dress the salad, mix well, correct the seasoning, and place in your serving bowl. Top with the rest of the almonds and a bit more parsley.
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73 Comments Add yours
Thank you, Dorothy, for the brilliant idea!
Thanks for stopping by Joanna!
For those of the vegetarian persuasion, a good cold weather dinner consists of a vegetarian soup, salad and a multi-grain artisan bread.
I heartily agree! I think I could live on soup all winter, and most of my favorites are vegetarian.
I am amazed at the knowledge you share about each dish! Love the tangy vinaigrette, sounds appealing with this salad.
Thanks Jan! I tend to know just a little bit about a lot of things, and I love to share that with everyone.
What an amazing story! Luckily we can just buy it at the grocery store! Such a beautiful salad Dorothy, it sounds wonderful!
Thanks Jenna! It was fun to do this – once!
This sounds perfect for cutting through all the richness on a Thanksgiving table. And thanks for the lesson on chicory. I had no idea it was so tedious to grow. Makes me appreciate it even more!
Well, that’s why I only grew it once! Like making puff pastry from scratch. Yes, it is not hard. Yes, it takes a long time. No, it is not substantially better than what you can buy!
This looks delicious although I usually find endive bitter-ish. I see that you mention fruity olive oil. How would I know if I had that? Does it say that on the label?
Look for an extra virgin olive oil that is cold pressed and has a lot of fragrance and character. Often a fruity olive oil will actually smell like olives, and other fruits, but the test is really in the taste and what you like. Here, you want an olive oil with its own flavor, not one that you would use for more neutral uses.
Got it. Makes sense. Thanks for answering my question.
Any time. Rule of thumb, the most expensive EVOOs are probably going to be the most fruity and you will want to use them only when flavor is desired, I don’t squander it by using it to cook!
I didn’t know that about EVOOs and will remember that info. Now all I have to do is get to the grocery store!
They will be waiting patiently for you!
I will have to get this!
Thank you, it’s sooo good!
What a delicious combination of flavours! I happen to love bitter leaves but I can see how the sweetness of the grapes and maple syrup would help to balance the flavours. It’s definitely one for me to try, endive is one of the most popular winter vegetables here and the chicons are readily available to buy (I’ve only ever grown them once, too!), it’s a perfect partner for all those lovely rich French meats and dairy products we enjoy.
Thank you! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I love the bitter too, frisee, which is also a chicory, radicchio, all of these are happily part of my table!
And a salad like this really does lend relief to a heavier winter meal.
Anita nor I have ever tried endives, but I did not know they were part of the chicory plant. I LOVE chicory coffee! So we will try the endives sometime, as we have seen them at a couple of local groceries. I may try growing some in next year’s garden!
Good luck! It was fun to do at least once, and we really did end up with a pretty good harvest even though I was growing it in the chilly mountains of Vermont.
Thank you so much, we’ll certainly make this one again.
Beautiful and holiday inspired salad. Loos delicious.
Thank you Jovina! We really enjoyed this one, so much texture and flavor!
What an interesting and fun post! I love endive, but did not know it was part of chicory. This sounds delicious. Now I want to have some chicory coffee, too.
I know! When I lived in the south, the chicory coffee was far more common.
Love Café du Monde chicory coffee!
I’ll be there in a few minutes!
I’m a huge fan of endive, and chicory coffee, so found this post so interesting! The fact you’ve managed to grow your own is amazing.
Love the salad! 🙂
Thanks Ronit! Growing it in our cold climate (I lived in the mountains then!) was a challenge indeed, but in the end, it all turned out good!
Thank you Ronit! I know that until we did this little project, I had no idea how Belgium, endive was produced, and I remember a friend of mine calling it chicory, but I just thought she was confused!
Wow! You amaze me! You share such fabulous info on everything you share with us. Thank you… and this salad is a keeper.
Enjoy your day my friend. I can’t wait to see what you share with us next time!
Thank you Nancy! You always have such kind words!
Well Darlin’ you make goodness happen!
Thank you so much!
Maple syrup and capers, what an interesting combination!
I know! But somehow it works! I probably wouldn’t have thought of using the maple syrup, but I had a jug sitting on the counter that my neighbor brought me, and in it went!
Such a rare find here in the US. I love baked endive or chicoree, how we called it in Europe.
We rarely think about baking or braising endive, but the process does remove some of the bitterness.
The bitterness is in the core. If you cut the core on the bottom out like a 1″ deep triangle and wash the endive good afterward, they bitterness will go away.
A good tip if you do not enjoy the bitterness! Thanks!
I never thought to grow endive! This one sounds fantastic, Dorothy. PS It’s nice to see you writing again. I know your sister would love that xx Hugs
Thanks Christy! You are so right, and I really appreciate your words. Jan was always my biggest fan, and she told me time and time again that she loved everything I served her. She’d tell me right now to keep cooking! 💕
I can only imagine how delicious this endive must be when it is grown in your own garden. this is a lovely salad and the dressing looks delicious.
Thanks Bernie! I recall that it was really delicious, and I was so proud at the outcome!
What an amazing salad.
Thank you! It was really delightful!
I will have to leave out 3 ingredients for 90 days, but I bet this would still be tasty thank you.
What will you have to leave out Eunice?
Nuts, Maple Syrup and Oil 🙂
Breakfast today has a whole avocado, French bread (3-inch piece) 2 poached eggs, butter on the bread they call today a LOAD DAY fill up with things I will be away from well all but the eggs unless I find out through testing eggs are an issue 🙂
Well, I hope you are not allergic to nuts. We have two nut allergies in our family and they are hidden in so many things!
I know me too hoping no allergies just bad choices.
Learn something new every day. I’ve had chicory in my coffee, but had no idea it came from endive. 🤔🍃☕️
The whole plant aims to please!
Now I’m convinced. 👏
This sounds like a wonderful salad! I like the addition of grapes in it for a little sweetness! 🙂
Thank you Nancy! The grapes really made this shine!
From garden to table is always a good thing. 👏🏻
Have you ever grown this Judy?
What a cool story. I’ve never had chicory, and now I’m curious to try it.
Thanks Jeff! Hope you enjoy this delightful vegetable as much as we do!
Looks yummy! Salads are always filled with fun bites . But no way it can take up to a year to make. Happy Turkey Day
We’ll, ALMOST a year!
I am without words! Happy turkey day lovely lady! XOXO
The same to you my friend!
Wow! Difficult to grow them but easy to eat 😉😋 what a beautiful salad!
Thank you Ribana! It was really satisfying.
I have never tasted chicory but you sure make it look delicious Dorothy!
Thank you Diane! I love the slightly bitter flavor!