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The 5-Ingredient Italian Appetizer That's Sweet, Bitter, Salty, Creamy & Crunchy All in One Bite

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Belgian endives are one of my favorite low-maintenance ingredients. You don't need to fuss much with them. They are perfect just as they are.

A cousin of radicchio, Belgian endives carry that similar, characteristic, satisfying chicory bitterness in their juicy leaves. And, in fact, this is what makes them so delicious.

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Endive with Pecorino and Honey
Endive with Pecorino and Honey

Belgian endives's pleasant bitterness and refreshing crunchiness pair well with strong flavors, like a cheese full of character or salty anchovies. It's delightful with something creamy (cream, butter, soft cheese), or, I discovered, a hint of something sweet like a drizzle of honey, to balance out the bitterness.

Because of their shape and size, the juicy, crisp leaves, which sit like little boats, make perfect finger food, just waiting to be filled with something.

This delicate antipasto is so easy, you barely need to do anything other than assemble the ingredients and let the flavors do all the work. It's a wonderful balance of sweet, bitter, salty, and creamy.

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Photo by Emiko Davies

And if you'd like to get a little more acquainted with endive's ease, here are some suggestions:

  • These Roman-style braised endives are minimally fussy, cooked with a bit of garlic, olive oil, and mint leaves until soft and mellow.
  • Jane Grigson cooks endive in butter and cream until golden and succulent or adds them raw to potato salad with prosciutto crude.
  • You can also simply roast them with a sprinkle of salt or keep them raw and dress them with a vinaigrette, crumbled blue cheese, and toasted walnuts.

  • And you can make a salad out them like Gabrielle Hamilton does, pretending that they are a beautiful, bitter, green bundle of Roman puntarelle and topping them with a bracing dressing of lemon, garlic, anchovies, and olive oil.

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Endive with Pecorino and Honey

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Serves 4 as part of an antipasto
  • 2 Belgian endives (also known as witlof or chicory)
  • 5-6 1/4 inch slices of young or semi-aged pecorino cheese (see note for alternatives)
  • 2 teaspoons honey, such as locust or chestnut
  • 1 pinch sea salt flakes
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Emiko, a.k.a. Emiko Davies, is a food writer and cookbook author living in Tuscany, where she writes about (and eats!) regional Italian foods. You can read more of her writing on her blog.

What's your favorite way to use endive? Let us know in the comments below!

Tags: Italy, pecorino, chicory, Belgian endive