Greens of all varieties have benefitted from the caprices of recent weather. The plants in my garden grew lush during unseasonably warm temperature, then cooled their heels in a cold snap that kept them from bolting.
So the past week’s meals have incorporated plenty of greens: chard, spinach, lettuce, even the ruffle-edged tops from beets. Cooked or raw, on their own or paired with other ingredients, greens can wear many faces.
But when I want a singular sort of green, I reach for Belgian endive. Actually a member of the chicory family, this pale but sturdy vegetable makes a chopped salad of incomparable crunch, particularly when combined with crisp chunks of apple and toasted nuts.
That was my preferred preparation before discovering a technique that revealed another side of endive. Searing it in a pan tempers some of endive’s crunch but brings out so much more flavor. It’s like the grilled Caesar salad concept only so much better.
The following recipe from Tribune News Service doesn’t list quantities, making for a loose interpretation. Writer Leah Eskin notes that one endive head per person constitutes a side dish. Two is a meal unto itself
I adapted the recipe further by toasting some panko breadcrumbs in the residual oil and butter from searing the endive, adding a little anchovy paste and Aleppo pepper and deglazing with some sherry for a warm dressing. Given those flavors, I stuck with a mild cheese, fromage blanc, for topping.
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Feta, goat or mild blue cheese
Slice each of the endive in half from root to tip. Trim away root end. If outermost leaves look sad, peel them away. Rub endive all over with the salt and pepper.
Set a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Drop in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil. When butter has melted, halve 1 clove garlic and slide it in, cut-side down. Settle in endive in a single layer, cut-side down.
Cover pan. Let cook over medium-low (no stirring, prodding or fussing) until flat sides crisp to a deep brown and curved sides steam tender, for about 20 minutes. (Times vary depending on size of endive from as little as 15 to as much as 25 minutes. But err on the long side; you want a deep-brown flat surface.)
Set endive, crisp side up on a platter. Crumble on a little cheese. Enjoy warm.