In Season: Belgian Endive

By Stacy Brugeman

This pleasantly bitter but slightly sweet member of the chicory family is at its peak from November to April. With only one calorie per leaf, this fat-, sodium-, and cholesterol-free vegetable provides an excellent source of folate and heart-healthy potassium. It also delivers beta-carotene, shown to lower homocysteine levels (connected to higher risk for coronary heart disease and stroke) and reduce the risk of both cataracts and macular degeneration. Look for tightly closed heads and store them in paper to preserve their color and flavor. Washing can bruise the delicate leaves, so wipe only the outer leaves with a damp towel just before preparing one of these delicious recipes:

Endive and Blue Cheese Crudité
Trim the base of 2 endive heads, and separate leaves, arranging them on a platter. Crumble a bit of blue cheese on each leaf, press a few toasted walnut pieces into the cheese, and top with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Warm Endive and Poached Egg Salad
Trim 8 endive heads, and cut crosswise into half-inch slices. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 finely minced garlic cloves until garlic is just fragrant. Whisk in the juice of a lemon and toss with endive and 1 cup toasted croutons. Place onto 4 plates, and top each with a gently poached egg and few twists of freshly ground black pepper.

Grilled Spicy Tangerine–Endive Chicons
Whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, the juice of half a tangerine, and ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper. Slice 4 endive heads in half lengthwise, and generously brush with vinaigrette. Grill over a medium heat until tender throughout, about 20 minutes, turning once, and brush with more vinaigrette. Season with salt, and serve.