“C’est horrible, les endives!”

For his 6th birthday, my son received a wonderful book in French called, “Emile et invisible.” This funny book follows Emile as he tries to avoid eating les endives for lunch by making himself invisible. Emile’s mother tries to make the bitter endives more palatable by smothering them in ham and gruyère, but he still isn’t convinced.

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Endive in Switzerland

According to the Union maraîchère suisse (Swiss vegetable union), the first endive in Switzerland was grown in 1909 in the Geneva region. That seemed relatively recent to me, until I learned about how endive is grown (in the dark) and how it started. The prevailing story of endive’s birth claims it was accidentally discovered by a Belgian farmer, who was storing chicory roots in his cellar. When he noticed the white buds growing from the thick roots, modern endive had arrived.

Today, about 80 percent of the Switzerland’s endive is grown in the canton of Vaud. In German-speaking Switzerland, you’ll find fresh endive used in salads, particularly during the winter months. Cooked endive is more common in French-speaking Switzerland, or Suisse romande, where we live. The process of cooking endive helps remove some of its bitter taste, which certainly helps, but unfortunately that means you lose its fresh crisp texture.

Before last week, I had very limited experience preparing endive. I typically ate them raw and in salads, most often with cheese and nuts. So, when I saw an easy recipe for braised endive in a French-cooking magazine that I could (hopefully) make dairy-free, I figured I would give it a try—even though my boys were less than thrilled.

I was happy with the result, and the recipe below is quick and easy—especially if you’re new to cooking endive and just want to try it out. Also, feel free to double the recipe, if you’re cooking for people who will actually eat it (this is not the case in my home just yet!).

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Braised Endives à l’Orange

Recipe adapted from Saveurs magazine, N°208.

Serves 2-3 people.

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

4 heads of endive
1 tablespoon dairy-free margarine
1 orange (half for zest, all for juice)
1 tablespoon of honey

1. Zest about half an orange, and squeeze the juice out of the whole thing. Whisk together half the orange juice with the zest and honey. Set aside, along with the reserved orange juice.

2. Remove outer leaves, if necessary from the endive. Rinse the endive in cold water. Slice off the stems, and then cut them in half, lengthwise.

3. Melt the dairy-free margarine in a large pan. Cook the endive over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Then, pour over the orange and honey mixture and cook the endive for another 10 minutes on medium to medium-low heat.

4. Pour over the remaining orange juice, add salt and pepper, and cook the endive for 5 minutes, so the sauce becomes slightly thickened. Serve immediately.

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Similar to lentils, I’m hoping to discover some kid-friendly recipes for endive. How do you prepare this bitter vegetable? Cooked or raw?

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2 thoughts on ““C’est horrible, les endives!”

  1. Stephanie says:

    I make a similar preparation, but in a salad. I slice them crosswise to make little strips, then add chopped apricots or clementine sections and toasted almonds (you can also use pine nuts, but those aren’t usually in my budget). Then I make a honey mustard dressing and toss it all up! We enjoy it, especially in winter when fresh salad is expensive.

    • H. Elise says:

      Hi Stephanie! I love this idea. Thanks so much for sharing it. We can’t do almonds or pine nuts b/c of allergies, but I can try it with toasted pumpkin seeds. Sounds wonderful. Hope all is well with you and your family. Many thanks, Heddi

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