Monday, March 4, 2013

An Easy Belgian Endive Salad

In my parent's household, eating salad was a must.
I don't know how my mother did it with four kids, listening to us complaining about the salad we had to eat every single day, after we had already eaten lunch and there was this huge bowl of salad still to be eaten. Maybe once in a few months did my mother let us go without the salad, when she deemed a Chinese stir fry incompatible with salad. We were so happy about those days.
Summer was alright, and winter too, until I started to really dislike beet salad, and all the different bitter winter greens that were seasonal, but just not to my liking. Or to my siblings'.
My mother stuck with this habit for as long as I can remember, and maybe after 10 years she started to see the fruits of her labour. I think my sister and I started to complain less way before my brothers did. There was that time my little sister wanted to finish that huge bowl of by herself, when at the same time the two boys would still sit in front of their salad 15-20 minutes after they had started eating it.
And last year I could not help myself but laugh out loud when my littlest brother told me about summer camp, and how they were never served salad, and on their free day, he'd go to the nearest supermarket to buy one of those already washed/cut salad bowls, pour the dressing that comes with it on top and eat the salad he had missed.
One problem for all of us, the least for my sister, was the bitter salad we had to eat throughout all winter. Endive, napa cabbage, radicchio and all the other varieties that do grow in winter but are just too bitter to be really likeable. And even when we complained less about salad, those bitter greens never really appealed to me.

But this winter I found a way to prepare Belgian endive that makes me want to eat it by the head full, and not share it with anyone else. Caramelizing the endive counteracts the bitterness, but since some of the bitter flavor remains, you don't end up with a boringly sweet salad. Really, that stuff is addicting. In fact, when a friend came over who was really sceptical about the endive, I hoped to have more for myself and was quite disappointed when she made it clear that the leftovers cannot go onto my plate alone.
This is easy, and if you are not too fond of the winter salad either, you really should give this a try. (And I do hope I can convert you, too)

Caramelized Belgian Endive Salad, with an optional hazelnut crunch

Cut as many heads of Belgian endive in half. Do not remove the bottom part or else they will fall apart when cooking. Rub the cut side with a little sugar, maybe a tablespoon for 2 heads.
Heat a skillet over medium heat, a just a little oil. Place the endive cut side down in the skillet and let brown for a minute or so. Remove from heat once nicely browned, place cut side up on plates and drizzle with a little oil (I used pumpkin seed oil, and have used pistachio, which is insanely good but insanely expensive, but use anything slightly nutty)
Sprinkle a little salt on top, and maybe add a little balsamic vinegar if you like.

If you want to make the hazelnut crunch I have in the picture above, just coarsely chop a few hazelnuts, toast them in the skillet before caramelizing the endive, and add a teaspoon or so of maple syrup. Let it bubble up for a few seconds, then remove from skillet, wipe it out and proceed to make the caramelized endive.


  1. Haha, loved reading this. My mom had 4 children too who hated eating salad. Fortunately, for some reason (maybe it was the fact that for dinner my mom would exclusively make one giant salad), when I got into high school all of us loved her salads and looked forward to them. To this day I still love eating salads and I think it's because of her. I have never really had or liked endive, though. Caramelizing it sounds so good! I will pick some up sometime this week and try some version of this.

  2. I just got off the phone with my mother. One of the first things she said to me is: "Have you been eating enough fruit? I know that you two don't eat as many vegetables as we do..." I think it's basically the official job of all moms to feed their children tons of vegetables, salad or otherwise.

    I don't remember the last time that I had endive. I'm not even sure if I like it. But I'll have give this a try sometime later this week. I can only eat so many massaged kale salads in one winter.

  3. We definitely had many, many salads growing up, but they were never as interesting as those bitter green salads sound! (Not that that would have swayed me as a kid, but still.) It was always standard mid-American iceberg with limp tomatoes and thick unpeeled cucumber slices. D: But I do love salad now. Seared endive halves sounds amazing!