Grilled Veg 3 - Endive (Belgian)
This lunch is as much about the cheese as it is about the endive. But it is really the great idea of combining the two for a supeb lunch that has center stage here. And let me proudly say and safely say, that this combination, at least with this particular cheese,is entirely my own, despite the fact that unknown to me others may possibly have independently invented the same delicious idea..
Endive has a slight bitterness, a taste that intrigues rather than repels, pulls rather than pushes. Fire tames that property of this bewitching vegetable just ever so slightly The warmth that results is also appealing, particularly when contrasted with the cold, dryish cheese. (Though I'm giving some thought to grilling the cheese also!) The strong, almost smoky, taste of the cheese provides the perfect counterpoint to the grilled endive.
(Preliminary note: start by preheating your grill).
Technically (culinarily technically) this is known as "Belgian endive." There are other types. Endive is actually a type of chicory, which includes such things as curly chicory and radicchio.
Belgian endive is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. There is a large, tough root with a covering rather like the tan skin on ginger. On top of this root, but still beneath the surface of the soil, white leaves begin to grow. That's what we are looking for.
The darkness keeps the leaves from opening up and then turning green. The tips of the leaves typically emerge and gain some color, sometimes yellow, sometime maroon. You many have wondered about the blue paper you've seen market workers unwrapping the endive from -- that keeps light from the leaves.
Halved and ready
Pour a little EVOO into the pan you are going to use to bring the endive to the grill. (For EVOO, click here.}
Use your tongs to turn the halves around in the oil a bit.
Take them promptly to a preheated grill.. We don't want any of the leaves to discolor in any way.
Now we place the halves face down, close the lid and leave them that way for about two minutes.
Next we turn them over and do the same thing for about a minute and a half
. That's all the time it takes. Adjust the time, of course, to meet the characteristics of your particular grill.
Back in the pan
Ready and on the way to the table.
Since the grilling takes such a short time to produce its results, this meal is ideal for lunch - say if you come home from the office for lunch or if you just want to fit something special in between morning and afternoon.
We've simply put the endive back in the pan as a place to collect them white we prepare the individual lunch plates.
Enter the cheese
Gouda, but not just any Gouda.
Gouda is a town in southwestern Netherlands, and this cow's milk cheese was developed there. The town, however, has been unable to maintain a monopoly on the name, so Gouda cheese is now made everywhere -- everywhere they appreciate delicious cheese. In Holland, it is sometimes made, interestingly, with small piece of stinging nettle in it. Red pepper is also sometimes added.
. The vast majority of the Gouda we see is young, aged six months or less. . The Gouda used here has been aged for almost three years. Five or more years would be even better. This Gouda is much harder than the young, harder too to slice.
One source describes the aging process as imparting an "underlying pungent bitterness." Not a bad description, but if there is any bitterness it is the same sort which characterizes endive -- a taste that pulls you in rather than pushes you away. Maybe this is why the aged Gouda pairs so well with the grilled endive. Time for lunch!
. A small squeeze of lemon juice, several black olives, and some capers -- perfect.
Red: Pinot Noir.
White: Pinot Grigio.
It is difficult to choose between these two, both of which are light enough so as not to overpower the endive (in particular). But here's a suggestion: if you are basically a red wine drinker, try the white. And if you are basically a white wine drinker, try the red.
Belgian endive is a type of chicory, quite distinct from other types in fact. (When people in the US think of chicory, they think of what was added to coffee in New Orleans during the Civil War, as a way to extend the limited supply at a time when normal supply lines were of course interrupted. The taste was distinctive and has lingered, flavoring coffee there even today -- it is an essential part of any visit to New Orleans).
The whiter the leaves, the less the bitterness -- though Belgian endive's bitterness is a delicious bit of bitter. Not so long ago, Belgian endive was always sold in blue wrapping paper to prevent the leaves from maturing. Somehow today they manage to sell it in clear plastic wrap just like so many other vegetables. The part we eat is not really a root, but it is grown beneath the soil's surface with only the tips of the leaves protruding. It is dug up for market.
Belgian endive's cousin, Radicchio, is also delicious grilled. I will try to feature radicchio in the future sometime.
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