In Praise of Leaves (Quick Caramelized Belgian Endive)

It is time. Time to give credit where credit is due: Belgian endive is a superhero vegetable. Granted, it does not fly around in a tight blue outfit saving lives, but think of all the things it does do. It serves as the basis of salads, feeling equally at home with fruity partners (apple, tangerine, banana) and intensely cheesy ones (blue cheese, mature Gouda). It is a useful carrier for snacks at parties. It turns into a seductively silky tangle when braised. And dressed in a sweet little dress, it is the perfect complement to many a meaty main dish.

It is only fitting, then, that we call Belgian endive “white praise” in Dutch. I suppose you could nitpick and tell me that, technically, the “praise” isn’t so much praise as a shortened form of “leaves”. But why would you?

And to convince you that this is indeed a praise-worthy vegetable, I will give you the recipe for my quick’n’dirty caramelized Belgian endive. The day will come, I am sure, when I will spend an hour or two braising the white leaves into tenderness, basting them with sweet cooking liquid regularly to get a perfect caramel coating, as I once saw a friend’s man do. Until then, this recipe is a quicker (if less sophisticated) way to enjoy some sweet along with the delicate bitter and gentle crunch of the endive. And isn’t that what superheroes are about? Bringing sweet to the bitter, and in record time.

Quick caramelized Belgian endive

Serves 2

4 spears Belgian endive
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Balsamic-style vinegar
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp Parmesan, finely grated

Remove any ugly leaves from the endive spears. Rinse them and dry thoroughly. Halve vertically and remove hard bottom bits. Slice halves into thin strips, still cutting vertically so you and up with long, thin strips rather than half moons.

Heat a skillet until hot, add the oil and swirl it around the pan. Add the endive and leave for a minute or so, until brown spots form on the bits of the vegetable touching the pan. Turn over the strips and lower the heat to medium. Cook endive until it starts to soften. Meanwhile, heat your broiler.

Sprinkle the vinegar over the endive and toss to coat. Sprinkle over the sugar and leave for a few minutes until it “melts” into the vinegar-coated vegetable.

Tranfer Belgian endive to an oven-proof dish. Dust with the Parmesan and broil for five minutes, or until cheese has melted and turned crispy.

Serve hot.


1 Comment

Filed under vegetables

One response to “In Praise of Leaves (Quick Caramelized Belgian Endive)

  1. Manon

    Mmmmm. Though the friend’s mans Belgian Andive was great, this sounds like a much better home variant. Cause quick but certainly not dirty.

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