With it, questions: Do we ever get over our first, earliest impressions? Is that why I am so fond of endive?
Because growing up, it was exotic, expensive, imported, and reserved for my parents’ dinner parties. It was pale. And perfect. A “cool, calm, and collected” type; a little mysterious; one of the blonde Breck shampoo girls. The leaves were crisp, but in the middle of the leaf, a little fleshy, substantial. The flavor, intriguing. Sophisticated, my sisters and I decided. Not bitter. Not sweet. Definitely not lettuce. But all of that, too. It excited us.
Mom cut the firm little compact heads crosswise into her salads and so that is the way I eat them most often, too. But always, eating endive feels like a special occasion. A treat. Sure, sure, you can use them as one-calorie chips for your dip. Yes, they crunch. No, they don’t get soggy. But saving calories alone is not a good reason to eat them. For me. Only taste really motivates.
When I searched endive.com for inspiration, I found many good reasons to eat endive. I could braise it, roast it, grill it, or smoke it. No, not that way; I meant in the barbecue. But I think I will make some pasta and it will be very white because the sauce will be just cream, maybe a whiff of nutmeg, Meyer lemon zest, and a shower of julienned endive, red and green both for just a little color. I won’t cook it first, just let it wilt a little in the hot pasta. Plus a few toasted pine nuts. That would be a nice lead in to a roasted chicken. And then a salad. And then a chocolate truffle. Now where is my Valentine?
If you want details: To make the sauce, boil 1 cup of heavy cream with the grated zest of half a fat Meyer lemon, the juice of half the Meyer lemon, a good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, and salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste. Cut the rest of the zest from the lemon into julienne. Cook the cream until reduced by about half. Meanwhile, cook your pasta, preferably linguine, enough for 2. Cut the top 3 inches off one head each of green and red endive and julienne the leaves lengthwise. Reserve the rest for another use. A minute before your pasta is done, add the julienned zest to your sauce, taste and adjust the seasonings. Drain your pasta, return it to the pot, pour in the sauce, and toss in the julienned endive. Toss well and divide between 2 warm rimmed soup plates. Sprinkle a few toasted pine nuts on top and serve immediately.