SOURCE: California Endive

January 18, 2011 05:00 ET

Eat Healthy... Eat Well... Discover Endive

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - January 18, 2011) - (Family Features) Resolving to eat better doesn't have to condemn you to a diet of lettuce and celery sticks. To make that healthy-eating resolution stick, think about the pleasures you can add to your menus, not about the temptations you need to avoid. Serving endive (pronounced "on-deev") makes a meal seem like a special occasion, yet this prized member of the chicory family contributes only one calorie per leaf. That's a smart way to indulge.

You probably already know that endive leaves make elegant dippers -- a low-calorie and fat-free alternative to chips. And maybe you have sliced some endive into a salad to dress it up. It pairs beautifully with nuts and cool-weather fruits such as apples, pears and persimmons.

Great cooked
But endive also shines in cooked dishes. Braised or baked, it's a favorite in France, although French cooks tend to blanket it with cream or béchamel sauce. It doesn't need such rich treatment. Use sautéed endive and leeks as a bed for lean baked fish. Broil halved endives with olive oil and drizzle with a homemade Caesar-style dressing. Slow-braise whole endives with fragrant fresh thyme as a potato replacement alongside roast chicken. With endive on the menu, eating healthfully means eating well.

At the market
When shopping for endive, look for plump, pale, blemish-free heads. Red endive tends to be smaller than the white variety, but the two taste the same, so you can use them interchangeably -- or mix it up -- in recipes. At home, store endive in your refrigerator's vegetable crisper, wrapped in a damp paper towel inside a plastic bag. It will last for 10 to 14 days, much longer than other lettuces.

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Halibut Baked with Endive, Leeks and Tarragon
Serves 6
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
6 cups thinly sliced leeks
  Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
6 California endives, halved lengthwise and cored
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
6 halibut fillets, 5 to 6 ounces each
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 425°F. In ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven wide enough to hold the fish in one layer, warm butter and olive oil over moderate heat. Add leeks and season with salt and pepper. Stir well, then cover, reduce to moderately low and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks have softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let them brown.

Cut endive halves crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide pieces. Stir endive and tarragon into skillet, season with more salt and pepper, cover and continue cooking until endive has softened slightly, 3 to 4 minutes.

Season halibut fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Arrange them on the bed of vegetables and transfer skillet to the oven, uncovered. Bake until fish just flakes, 10 to 12 minutes.

Divide vegetables and fish among 6 dinner plates. Top fish with a generous drizzle of olive oil and garnish with parsley. Serve hot.

Broiled Endive with a Quick Caesar Dressing
Serves 6
1/4 cup mayonnaise (not low fat)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
anchovy fillet, finely minced
1 1/2  teaspoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
  Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
9 large California endives, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced parsley

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, olive oil, garlic, anchovy and wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in a little water to make the dressing thin enough to drizzle.

Preheat broiler and place an oven rack in the lowest position. Cut a thin slice off the rounded side of each endive half so it sits on a baking sheet without rolling. Put endive halves on baking sheet cut side up. Brush with half of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil until nicely browned in spots, about 10 minutes.

Turn endives over, brush with remaining oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil on rounded side until nicely browned and tender, about 10 minutes longer. Turn endives over again, raise oven rack to about 6 inches from heat, and broil briefly to crisp the edges.

Transfer endives to a serving platter, cut side up. Drizzle with dressing, then garnish with Parmesan and parsley. Serve hot.

Endive and Watercress Salad with Apples and Walnuts 
Serves 6 
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
  Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 California endives, halved lengthwise and cored
2 firmly packed cups watercress leaves (no thick stems)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 large crisp apple, such as Fuji

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, wine vinegar and shallot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut endive halves crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces. Put endive, watercress, walnuts and mint in a salad bowl. Quarter and core apple, then slice crosswise as thinly as possible. Add sliced apple to salad bowl. Add enough dressing to coat salad nicely; you may not need it all. Toss well, taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.

Braised Endive with Butter and Fresh Thyme
Serves 6
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 sprigs fresh thyme
6 large or 1 dozen medium California endives
  Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Melt butter over moderately low heat in a skillet large enough to hold endives in one layer. Add thyme sprigs, then arrange endives on top. Season with salt. Cover and cook slowly until endives are tender when pierced, 20 to 30 minutes, turning them with tongs halfway through.

Uncover and remove thyme sprigs. Raise heat to high and cook until endives are browned on the pan side, about 1 minute. With tongs, transfer to a platter, browned side up. Season with several grinds of black pepper and garnish with parsley. Serve hot or warm.