Belgian endive is shaped like a torpedo and grows to about six inches in length. It has tender white leaves with either yellow or red-colored leaf edges. The leaves offer a soft texture and delicate crunch with a pleasantly bitter flavor.
Belgian endive is a source of thiamin, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamins B6 and C, as well as folate and copper. It also contains intybin which is not only responsible for the bitter taste of the leaves but is also known to be an appetite stimulant and a digestive aid. When consumed in large amounts Belgian endive can also act as a diuretic and laxative.
While Belgian endive is commonly used raw in recipes it is also versatile in cooked preparations. Roast whole or halved endive with olive oil until softened and serve as a side dish with grated cheese. Grill endive halves and add to cooked grains or serve atop pizza. Add chopped or halved to tarts, quiche, soups, stews and stir-fries. When raw it can be chopped and used in a salad or individual leaves can be stuffed with other complimentary ingredients as a canap?. Braising Belgian endive in butter will slightly mellow the bitterness of the vegetable. The bitter flavor of Belgian endive pairs well with onion, pear, apple, cranberries, herbs such as basil and thyme, walnuts, pecans, butter, cream based sauces, olive oil, bacon lardons, prosciutto, lamb, poultry and gorgonzola, manchengo, blue and feta cheeses. Endive will keep refrigerated for one to two weeks.