Belgian endive is sometimes called witloof or French endive. Belgian endive was developed by a Dutch botanist from the coffee chicory root in 1846. Chicory root has a bitter flavor profile and can be used for cooking, though a small amount goes along way. I particularly like it in gamy dishes such lamb or venison. Also it is often used as a coffee substitute since it has a coffee-like flavor profile. In order to use it as a coffee substitute, the roots must be dried and then ground. It's noteworthy to mention that the roots have a high insulin content and hence are beneficial to your well being. It cures liver issues and helps with cardiovascular ailments and constipation.
Endive root has a growth cycle of about 6 months and then it may be harvested twice a year. After the roots are well established, the plant is gently pulled from the ground. The roots are then replanted and grown in darkness. The emerging endive is kept beneath the soil or often covered with straw, which preserves its immaculate whiteness. Only the tips of the endive are allowed to exist the open air and gain exposure to light, which makes the very top turn a gentle pastel green. Also, you may have seen fancy, purple-leaved endive, which sells at a high price.
Belgian endive has a crisp texture and a sweet, nutty flavor profile. In addition. it tends to be pleasantly, mildly bitter. It can be cooked, but the following recipe showcases its raw, subtle side.
Stuffed Belgian Endive Petals
(recipe makes about 20 petals or hors d'oeuvres)
1 apple, such as Granny Smith
1 stalk green celery
1 lemon, juiced
4 ounces blue cheese, such as Maytag
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
1 tablespoon maple syrup
black pepper from the mill, to taste
sea salt, to taste
4 Belgian endives
1) Cut apple around the core into 1/8”-thick slices and then into 1/8”-wide strips. Cut the strips into 1/8" cubes. Cut celery into 1/8" strips and across into 1/8" cubes.
2) In a bowl, crumble blue cheese into small nuggets and add the cut apples, celery, lemon, walnuts and maple syrup. Season mixture with salt and pepper from the mill to taste. With a table fork toss and mix the ingredients.
4) Trim endives by cutting a 1” piece from the bottom. Throw that out. Separate endive heads into leaves. Select large leaves for stuffed leaves. Use the small inner leaves for another recipe such as chopped salad.
5) On a plate stuff each endive leaf with 1 tablespoon of the cheese/apple mixture.
Chef’s Tip: Line a serving tray with a decorative, clean towel—this will provide a stable base for the endive. Arrange the stuffed leaves in a flower-like pattern. Leave enough space in between the petals so your guests can take them off the plate easily.