Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dive into endive

Now that spring seems to be arriving in Virginia, I am looking forward to the opening of the farmers market. I only went a few times last year before it closed in the fall.

One of my favorite things at the Sacramento market was the little baggies of endive, often in two colors. I would use the outside leaves for appetizers, then slice up the centers and sprinkle in salads. Their bitter crispness was more than offset by a diced avocado, or a sprinkling of cheese, and made the salad more interesting.

If you find endive at a good price, especially a mixture of both colors, buy a bunch. And if you get tired of using it in salads, or smeared with a combination of blue and cream cheese for an appetizer, here's a tart by Gordon Ramsay that he says "is a lovely accompaniment to roast lamb, beef, duck or game dishes." The metric measurements in parentheses are his; I translated for U.S. kitchens. And although we use the term chicory to describe the curly-leafed green or the root that's roasted into coffee, in England it's what they call endive.

Gordon Ramsay's "chicory" tart
Serves 4 as a side dish

4-5 heads of endive (chicory)
1 tablespoon (
25g) butter

2 tablespoons superfine (golden caster) sugar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces (
75g) blue cheese, such as 
Stilton or Roquefort
2 tablespoons crushed walnuts or pecans (optional)
9 ounces (
250g) puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (200C/
Gas 6). Trim off a little of the base of each endive (chicory) head, then halve lengthwise. Set aside.
Cut the butter into thin slices and arrange in an 8-inch ( 20cm) ovenproof sauté pan. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the butter and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Place over a high heat and cook for 4-5 minutes until the sugar and butter begin to caramelize.
Take off the heat and arrange the chicory halves in the pan, cut-side down (pack them in tightly to cover the base). Crumble over the cheese and scatter over the nuts, if using.
Roll out the pastry on 
a lightly floured board to 1/8-inch thick (
the thickness of a £1 coin). Use 
a dinner plate, slightly larger 
than the diameter of the pan, 
as a template to cut out a neat circle. Prick the pastry round with 
a fork, then drape it over the tart, tucking it down at the sides.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for a few minutes. While still warm, turn out on to a plate and slice into four portions to serve, spooning over any juices from the base of the pan.

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