Belgian endive (correctly pronounced “on-DEEV”, though most people around here say, “N-dive” and good luck getting them to change) is a lettuce-like vegetable that is often used with the leaves acting as little boats, to hold appetizer tidbits. The leaves are delicate tasting, just slightly bitter, exquisite. Belgian endive is a chicory, like radicchio or curly endive, that commercially is grown completely indoors, away from light, in order to result in the delicate leaves we enjoy. Exposed to light, the leaves turn green and become much more bitter. They grow like a forced bulb on top of a large root the size of a fat carrot.
Endives are grown in France, Belgium, and also now in California. This recipe is a favorite of my French friend Guy (pronounced “Gee” with a hard “G”) who grew up in Provence, and whose mother made this salad for the family every Saturday. It’s a simple preparation—thickly sliced endive leaves tossed in an anchovy and garlic vinaigrette. The anchovies are key. They are what make this salad “Provencal” as anchovies can be found in so many preparations in Provence. Also anchovies are an umami bomb, and are the perfect complement to the slightly bitter endive leaves.
Do you use endives in your cooking, or do you have a favorite endive salad? Please let us know about it in the comments.
Whole salt preserved anchovies are preferred, but you can also use anchovy paste, perhaps a couple teaspoons, or more to taste, mixed in with the dressing.
- 6 heads of Belgian endive
- 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic
- 6 to 12 small oil-packed salted anchovy fillets (jarred or canned), to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 In a large serving bowl, stir the minced garlic into the olive oil. Roughly chop the anchovy fillets and add them to the oil. Add the salt and pepper and the sherry vinegar. Let the dressing sit and the oil infuse while you prep the endives (about 5 minutes).
2 Strip off and discard any outer tired leaves from the endives. Cut off and discard the hard root end of the endives. Slice the endives crosswise into 1-inch wide pieces. Cut the core end, if thick, into halves or quarters.
3 Add the chopped endive leaves to the serving bowl with the dressing, and toss gently until all of the endive leaves are lightly coated in the dressing.