Before the chef Ripert feast this past weekend, I had only tried Belgian Endive once, and it didn’t go well. It was ages ago and I tried to braise it … and it turned into a bitter mushy mess. The Ripert dish was a simple and elegant appetizer that made use of raw endive leaves filled with blue cheese, prosciutto, and pomegranate seeds. The gentle bitterness melded nicely with the saltiness and sweet-fruity crunch of the other ingredients.
Belgian endive has a long, tapered shape and light-colored, mildly bitter leaves. Mine was roughly 5-6" tall and easily yeilded 10-12 fillable leaves. The beautiful cream / light-green color comes from a growing technique called blanching, whereby the endive are either buried as they are growing or grown indoors. In fact, to keep their flavor intact, it’s recommended that you even wrap them in a paper towel when you store them. Close cousins to Belgian endive are escarole and frisee.