Winter is the season for endives (pronounced ahn-deev in French), and nothing could have said that more than their prevalence at every single stand at the market last weekend. Red ones, white ones, Belgian endives are totally in their prime right now. They are a crunchy and slightly bitter salad green whose flavor pairs well with a variety of foods. I particularly like to match them with the sweetly acidic blood orange, also in season right now.
My husband and I literally created the idea for this salad as we were perusing the fresh produce stands in the city center. I saw beautiful Belgian endives, and though my husband was at first a little skeptical, agreed to humor me that this would turn out well. I bought them from my favorite vendor, who is a middle-aged woman that each week very politely and patiently helps me out with my lack of French while I ask her the names of each kind of produce I buy. Last week I learned that leeks are called “poireaux” and she called curly endive “salade Lyonnaise“. Not only is she helpful, but her produce is exquisite. Living here I feel like I am learning how to taste and eat food for the first time all over again, finding out that there are foods I never knew I was in love with, and others that I am falling more in love with than I ever imagined.
For example, consider the radish. Oft neglected, at least in my experience, this colorful root vegetable can be quite bitter and require teeth of steel to bite into. At least that is my memory from say around 15 years ago, as I am sure that was the last time I had ventured to eat radishes. Maybe it was just an unfairly biased viewpoint I held, but now I cannot get enough of them. I love the crunch they have and am not turned off by the bitterness at all. Maybe they really are different here, or maybe it was just the right time in my life to rediscover this great veggie. Either way, I am now officially a fan of radishes.
So this salad is blend of all sorts of things, containing a contrast in flavors and textures all at once for the tongue to dance upon, with just a very light dressing to tie it all together. I love how the color of such a dish can cheer up an entire room, even in the dead of winter on these grey days. Such brightness speaks of the yearning for warm sunny spring days hopefully soon to come.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
4 Belgian white endives
200 g (about 1/2 lb) of salade Lyonnaise (curly endive)
2 blood oranges, peeled and segmented, each sliced into quarters
1 avocado, sliced
4 fresh radishes, thinly sliced
If desired – 2 slices bacon per person
For the vinaigrette:
2 tbs walnut oil
2 tbs. white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
a little squirt of lemon juice
1. Separate the leaves of each endive and arrange on a plate. On top, add the greens (curly endive).
2. Arrange blood oranges, avocado, and radishes, and bacon (if desired) on top of salad.
3. Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk quickly to make the dressing. Drizzle on top of salad. Enjoy!