In Season: Endive

Whether you're a CSA devotee, a farmers' market weekender or consider ketchup a veg, we'll bring you fresh inspiration for how to prepare our local produce.

This week's harvest: Endive

You'll find these huge heads of "lettuce" on the market tables taking up lots of space or cut from the ground in loose form. Whichever way you find it, they're fun to mix up the same ol' side salad. Consider yourself forewarned that endive and the other chicories are bitter. Today we'll find endive's sweet side.

When is endive in season?
December through May.

I thought endive was white and pointy.
That's belgian endive. Endive is the common name for several varieties of chicory, like belgian endive, radicchio and frisee. All chicories have a bitter quality. If you have a hard time downing bitter foods, like me, you'll find that cooking them helps straighten out your clenched bitter face. Endive is a member of the daisy family and you will be happy to know that your body will be blooming in folate, fiber and vitamins A and K.

Selecting, cleaning and storage tips:
Look for crisp leaves and don't worry that they're not deep green, endive isn't supposed to look that way. Once you have taken home some fresh leaves, give them that cold water bath and swish the leaves around with your hands. Gently lift them out of the water, leaving the dirt behind, spin or pat dry and store in the fridge in a plastic bag with a kitchen towel thrown in to prevent extra moisture from hanging out on the leaves and giving them an early death.

How to dive in to endive:

Try this classic salad with lardons (bacon) and poached eggs. Just swap the frisee for endive.

Grilled cheese with endive. If you're a Pane Bianco regular, you'll recognize this bright and crunchy sandwich filling from many of the market sandwiches.

​What I made for you was a side dish: Maple Lemon Endive. I adapted it from this recipe.

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
1 lemon, we'll use the zest and juice
1 (1-pound) head endive, torn
1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium-high pan and toast the bread crumbs, stirring occasionally, until crunchy and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Put toasted crumbs in a small bowl and stir in zest and a pinch of salt.

Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of oil and sauté half of the endive until slightly wilted, about a minute.

Add remaining endive and sauté until wilted, about 2 minutes more. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the lemon juice, maple syrup, a good pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more of what you think it needs.

Top with bread crumbs and serve along with your favorite protein. Hello dinner.

Jennifer Woods is a local food advocate with over 10 years working in the AZ food industry, and currently works for Crooked Sky Farms, a CSA produce farm based in South Phoenix.

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