endive

Pronunciation: [EN-dyv; AHN-deev; ahn-DEEV]

Endive is closely related to and often confused with its cousin, chicory. They're both part of the same botanical family, Cichorium. There are three main varieties of endive: Belgian endive, curly endive and escarole. Belgian endive, also known as French endive and witloof (white leaf), is a small (about six-inch-long), cigar-shaped head of cream-colored, tightly packed, slightly bitter leaves. It's grown in complete darkness to prevent it from turning green, using a labor-intensive growing technique known as blanching. Belgian endive is available year-round with a peak season from November through April. Buy crisp, firmly packed heads with pale, yellow-green tips. Belgian endives become bitter when exposed to light. They should be refrigerated, wrapped in a paper towel inside a plastic bag, for no more than a day. They can be served cold as part of a salad, or cooked by braising or baking. Curly endive, often mistakenly called chicory in the United States, grows in loose heads of lacy, green-rimmed outer leaves that curl at the tips. The off-white center leaves form a compact heart. The leaves of the curly endive have a prickly texture and slightly bitter taste. Escarole has broad, slightly curved, pale green leaves with a milder flavor than either Belgian or curly endive. Both curly endive and escarole are available year-round, with the peak season from June through October. They should be selected for their fresh, crisp texture; avoid heads with discoloration or insect damage. Store curly endive and escarole, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to three days. They're both used mainly in salads, but can also be briefly cooked and eaten as a vegetable or in soups.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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