What is an endive? For many people, endives are French-sounding vegetable that they roll right on by in the grocery store because they’re uncertain of what they actually are or how to cook them. This is a shame, because endives truly have an inimitable, slightly bitter (in a good way) flavor that can add a lot to cooking projects.
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If you’re endive-curious, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ll take a deeper look at this unique vegetable, including an explanation of what endives are and a few of the many ways to cook them.
What is an endive?
Endives are members of the same family as chicory, which also includes escarole, radicchio and frisee. Like its relatives, the endive boasts a crisp texture and pleasant bitterness that can add a pleasing fresh flavor to salads (as above) and recipes of all kinds.
There are two types of endives.
It’s true: There are two types of endive — they’re two separate vegetables that both go by the same name. According to California Endive, your pronunciation determines which one you’re talking about.
The first type (pronounced “N-dive”), is more like a lettuce in its shape, and is sometimes called “curly endive” or “curly chicory.” It can be eaten raw or cooked.
The second type, and the one we’re primarily discussing in this post, are typically called Belgian endives or California endives. Pronounced “on-deev,” this endive is a type of cool-weather vegetable that’s characterized by tightly packed leaves and an elongated shape. Belgian endives are grown in darkness, which keeps their color quite light. Once again, they can be enjoyed raw or cooked.
How to select and store endives
Late fall through early spring is the peak season for endives, though they can typically be found in stores year-round.
To select endives, look for firm, supple specimens with tips bearing a pale yellow or yellow-green color. Avoid endives that have distinct browning (slight browning on outer leaves is fine if you can pick them off) or feel overly soft.
Once purchased, store your endives in the refrigerator, wrapped in paper towels. They’ll keep for about a week.
How to cook endives: four ways
Now, let’s talk about some ways to cook with these unique vegetables. Here are four basic methods that will allow you to include endives in all sorts of meals.
Eat them raw
This is probably the easiest way to prepare endives: no cooking at all! You can enjoy raw endives in a number of different ways. Here are just a few you might try:
- Slice it and toss with mixed greens in a salad. You can choose to use only the inner leaves, which are more tender, or use the entire vegetable.
- Use leaves instead of lettuce in sandwiches. This works particularly well in rich sandwiches like ham and cheese, offering a pleasant contrast.
- Pull off individual leaves and use them as a naturally vegan and gluten-free “dipper” in hummus or other dips.
Pan-frying endives is wonderfully simple. Just follow the steps below:
- Slice your endives lengthwise, or in smaller pieces if desired.
- Choose a skillet that will fit the pieces comfortably without too much crowding. Place the skillet on a burner and heat olive oil over medium-high until it starts to shimmer.
- Add the endives; cook, flipping every few minutes, until they are toasty on the edges and feel soft in the center (the inner leaves may begin to come out a bit).
- Remove from the pan, season to taste, and serve.
For a variation on the pan-fried technique:
- Cook as suggested above
- Turn down the heat and add enough chicken or vegetable broth to coat the bottom of the pan about ¼” thick
- Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed.
- Slice the endives in half lengthwise.
- Place them on a sheet of lightly oiled foil set atop your grill or directly on a grill pan on your stovetop.
- Cook for about 15-20 minutes, turning every few minutes, or until grilled to your liking.
- Season to taste (I like to drizzle them with some melted butter and salt) and serve.
- Preheat your oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Slice endives in half, lengthwise, and place cut-side up on the prepared sheet.
- Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, or any seasoning mix you like.
- Cook for 20 minutes, or until crisped to your liking.
- I like to lay a slice of cheese on top of them right when they come out of the oven so that it melts on top.