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Knife Skills: How to Prepare Belgian Endives

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[Video: Jessica Leibowitz]

Endive comes in a few varieties. Curly endive, known as frisée in France and often called chicory in the U.S., has tightly bunched, frizzy leaves. Generally, only the tender yellow and pale green leaves from the center are eaten as a salad green (try some with duck confit or a poached egg—or both), and they can sometimes be tough to come across in a normal supermarket. Belgian endives are far more readily available in the States. Pale yellow with an elongated bulbous shape, they are made up of a series of tightly overlapping leaves.

The individual leaves are crunchy and slightly bitter, and make a good addition to a crudité platter. They go particularly well with creamy dressings and dips.

You can also slice the leaves in either direction to form the base of a salad. My favorite way to eat them is with a slightly sweet, nut-based vinaigrette, like my Toasted Almond Vinaigrette.

They also have quite a few cooked applications—you can braise endives whole in stock or milk, for example, or sautée the leaves and purée them into a soup. Try the leaves as a pizza topping too. They sweeten up like radicchio as they char.

Shopping and Storage

Look for endives that are free from blemishes and discolorations, feel heavy for their size, and have densely packed leaves. Pay particular attention to the feathery yellow edges of the leaves for signs of discoloration or wilting. Often, the outermost layers of the endive might show a touch of browning, but the inner layers will be fine. Peel back the outer leaves slightly to check for this.

Kept in a plastic vegetable bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge, endives should last a week or so when whole. Don't separate the leaves or cut them until just before serving, however, as they'll rapidly start browning.

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