Belgian endives are one of my favorite Autumn-Winter veggies! I buy Belgian endives a lot throughout their season, because they are a versatile and long lasting veggie to have around. I love to use them raw in salads, but I also add them to all kinds of soups and stews! Their pretty and firm leaves also make for a wonderful tiny serving dish for different kinds of yummy dips.
Pan seared Belgian endives are however my favorite! Searing the endives mellows their taste out and softens the texture. I usually add spoonfuls of hummus on top, followed by a generous amount of aromatic vegan mince. And most importantly: a handful of different tasty things, such as crispy caramelized onions, different nuts or seeds, fresh herbs, pomegranate seeds, green olives… The resulting dish has a truly addictive flavor and texture combination!
Chicories and Endives
Endive (Cichorium endivia) is a leaf vegetable that belongs to the genus Cichorium (thank you Wikipedia). If you’re used to referring to the vegetable pictured above as “endive” you are however mistaken! Cichorium endivia looks totally different, because well, it’s a different plant. Yet, here in Finland it’s common to call this plant endiivi (endive), and based on my online search, it seems to be the same case in some English speaking countries. But not all.
Reading about the different plants within the cichorium family actually gets quite confusing very fast. The plant above is often referred to as simply an endive, but this variety of common chicory (Cichorium intybus) is really a Belgian endive. Or something else based on the region discussing it… Even here in Finland it’s usually referred to as endive (endiivi), although it’s really a “salad chicory” (salaattisikuri). So when I’m searching for “endive recipes”, I mainly end up finding recipes for Belgian endives. Which is not really and endive, but a chicory? Okay, I’m getting lost here and I don’t really know all that well what I’m talking about… So, please read more on this topic yourself for example at FoodPrint.org or The Spruce Eats!
Entry level bitterness
Regardless of the confusing online naming and my lack of energy to better figure out the family tree of the cichorium, I love cooking with this plant! However, if you’re not familiar with it, it’s good to know what it tastes like before you buy it. Like all members of the cichorium, there’s a distinct bitterness present in this veggie. I used to pick out pieces of red radicchio or frisée from salad mixes, because their bitterness felt just too overpowering. Now I’ve grown to appreciate it however! The bitterness usually just needs to be balanced out with something rich and a pinch of salt. The bitterness of Belgian endives is on the mellow side: I call it “entry level bitterness”! You can further mellow the endives out by cooking them, and trimming out the most bitter part: the root end.
When you’re picking out Belgian endives, keep in mind that the whiter the leaves, the less bitter the flavor. Belgian endives are in fact grown in the dark to prevent the leaves from turning green and bitter. This is why it’s also a good idea to protect them from light at home! When you store Belgian endives in the fridge (2-5°C) they stay good for days, up to a full week. Softer salads often wilt in our household by the time I get to them, so there’s a reason why I fill my fridge with Belgian endives despite the fact that they are a bit pricey. They store so well that they help me prevent food waste whilst having some leafy greens on my plate throughout the week.
Pan seared Belgian endives with “tasty things” is the name I’ve given to a recipe I’ve been cooking for a couple of years now. In fact, I’ve even taken pictures of this dish already three times! For some reason the photos always turn out bad. I never seem to photograph this dish with a clear vision or enough time to get one while shooting 😀 Thus, publishing this recipe has been postponed more than once. I’m not very keen on these photos either, but enough with the self criticism. It’s time to share the recipe already!
The combination of “tasty things” I’m referring to varies a bit. Usually there’s however some kind of plant based protein involved, which I often season with garam masala. I like to add in something sweet, salty, crunchy and fresh on top. This can be such things as raisins, olives, nuts, crispy onions, pomegranate seeds and fresh herbs! Sometimes I also add in crumbled feta. (Mö Meijeri makes a fantastic vegan feta from oats here in Finland, which I used in my previous recipe. The recipe featured Belgian endives too by the way!)
Regardless of what the “tasty things” turn out to be each time, I always serve the pan seared Belgian endives with some hummus! By changing up the flavor profile of the hummus, the whole dish gets to take on different directions. And I love each and every one of them!
Pan seared Belgian endives & "tasty things"
- 2-3 Belgian endives
- c. 250 g vegan ground "beef"
- 2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp garam masala
- salt + freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp raisins (or dried cranberries)
- 2 tbsp chopped pistachios (or toasted cashews, pecans, walnuts, almonds...)
- 2-3 tbsp sliced green olives
- c. 250 g hummus
- c. 1 dl pomegranate seeds
- c. 1 dl crispy fried onions
- chopped flat leaf parsley and/or mint (to taste)
- We often eat this as a lunch for the two of us, but you can also serve it to 4 people as an appetizer / first course.
- I usually go for store bought hummus, but you can of course use your own!
- I usually prefer to make big batches of crispy fried onions myself, but store bought stuff is my choice also with onions unless I have my own at hand.
- If you want to level up how filling this dish is, you can crumble some (vegan) feta on top!
- I have used all kinds of plant based proteins in this dish (even grated tempeh), but any vegan "ground beef" is a good choice! The amount I use depends a bit on the package size, but is always somewhere between 200-300g. If the package size is 400g I usually brown the whole lot and use the leftovers in other dishes later on. Note: if the product is already seasoned, adjust the seasoning at home accordingly! I add the garam masala mainly to products that have no prior distinct flavor profile yet.
- If you're making your own crispy onions, prepare them first - store bought works well too and is of course the faster alternative. Remove the pomegranate seeds from the fruit - avoid getting any of the bitter white skins in to the mix! Pit and chop up the olives, roughly chop the pistachios (or other nuts). Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Trim off the bitter root end of the Belgian endives and half them lengthwise. (Note: trimming off too much will make the leaves fall off as you half the endives, so don't trim off more than a millimeter or two!)
- Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil and sautee the garlic until translucent and soft. Avoid getting color on the garlic at this point! Add in the vegan mince and brown it well (turn up the heat a bit!). Once you get a good color on the mince and some of the garlic, lower the heat and season the mince to taste with garam masala, salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
- Add in the raisins, nuts and olives. Remove the mixture from the pan and wipe the pan clean with a kitchen paper.
- Add in a few more spoonfuls of oil and start searing the Belgian endives, cut side down. Leave them undistubed until they get a good color (a couple of minutes on medium high heat). Flip them over and sear for a few minutes more on the other side, so the endives are fully softened and hot all the way through.
- Spoon half of the hummus on 2-4 plates. Add the endives on top and evenly distribute the remaining hummus on top. Top off with the warm protein mixture, pomegranate seeds, crispy onions and fresh herbs. Serve immediately!
How do you like to prepare and use Belgian endives?