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Friday, August 5, 2011
BELGIAN ENDIVE - THE TRUFFLE OF LETTUCES: HEALTH BENEFITS AND ENDIVE AND WATERCRESS SALAD RECIPE
The Belgian endive is the queen of the chicory family, but is a very close relative of Cichorium intybus or chicory. These are the only two plants in the genus although there are variants of the endive (pronounce ondeeve as, after all it is Belgian). Both are members of the Asteraceae family of plants or the daisy family.
There is a lot of confusion about these two plants, but the original chicory is the one whose roots are used as a coffee substitute or to flavour coffee. This one, the Belgian endive is more like a nutty flavoured lettuce, with which it goes well. It has a pleasantly mild bitter flavour. The Brits call the endive “chicory”, which further adds to the confusion, so if you look up a recipe for endive on a British website such as the BBC look for chicory recipes.
The story about endive is a rather strange one, as it was apparently discovered by one Jan Lammers in 1830. Before he went away to fight in the Belgian War of Independence he had put chicory roots in his cellar, intending to dry them and roast them for coffee. However when he went to check on them on his return home he found that they had sprouted pale white leaves. Being the curious type, he tasted them and found that they were good. It took years to perfect their cultivation, but they were launched onto the
markets in 1872 and became an instant success, with the nickname “white gold.” In the world of leafy salad greens these are the caviar or truffles of it. Paris
So what do you do with them? You can do anything with them boiled, steam, grill, bake or use raw in salads with other greens. They go well with radicchio, lettuce, watercress and rocket (arugula) or with lamb’s lettuce. You can use the leaves as scoops for dips, or stuff the leaves with caviar, smoked salmon, seafood and blue cheeses for appetizers.
They contain dietary fibre, so are good for the digestive tract and to prevent constipation and they are rich in the mineral potassium, as are mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, and figs, among other fruit and vegetables. Potassium is necessary for the normal functioning of the nerves and muscles, making it good for erectile dysfunction. It is also a blood pressure regulator.
vitamin A as do bilberries and carrots, which help the eyesight, in particular preventing or at least delaying the onset of age related macular degeneration, and cataracts as well as decreasing the likelihood of night-blindness. They also contain vitamin C which is found in citrus fruits such as lemons, grapefruit and pomelos, as well as tomatoes and broccoli among other fruit and vegetables. This has powerful antioxidant properties which can help boost the immune system and combat free radical damage to cells.
B-complex vitamins, B9 or folic acid or folate, which we need to synthesize and repair DNA and this is vital for normal growth and healthy red blood cells. This is also found in foods such as turnip tops, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts and bananas.
Although a leaf is mainly water (95%) and has no calories, it is still good for us, especially when mixed with other things. Try this salad and see what you think.
ENDIVE AND WATERCRESS SALAD
1 head of Belgian endive, leaves separated
1 bunch watercress
50 gr walnuts
100 gr Roquefort, crumbled
3 inch piece of root ginger, peeled and cut into julienne strips
white wine vinegar
2 tbsps chives snipped
1 tsp mustard, such as whole grain or
salt and freshly ground black pepper
First mix the dressing; you need 2 parts olive oil to 1 of white wine vinegar and mix by shaking in a jar. Then add the chives and a tsp mustard of your choice if you wish.
Put this in the fridge to chill.
Put the individual endive leaves on the bottom of a salad bowl or a plate and cover with the rest of the ingredients. Use the strips of ginger as garnish.
Serve the dressing separately.
This has Taste and is a Treat.