Night at the Opera

Share this post

By Heidi Lewis

August 25, 1830, at the Royal Theatre of the Mint in Brussels was an evening to remember. Famous tenor Adolphe Nourrit was belting out the stirring duet from the opera La Muette de Portici (The Mute Girl of Portici) about the “sacred love of the Fatherland,” which incited an already politically charged audience to riot. Belgians hit the streets where they sought and won independence from the Netherlands in an ensuing war. In 1871, Richard Wagner remarked about the opera: “Seldom has an artistic product stood in closer connection with a world event.”

War changes everything. Big things, but also little things. Jan Lammers, a Belgian farmer, returned to his farm after fighting in the 1830 revolution. He checked on his root cellar where he’d kept a stash of chicory and found it had blossomed in the dark into witloof (white leaf). Chicory is a wild leafy plant that has multiple uses; it was the root, however, that was cultivated by 19th century European citizens as a coffee substitute necessitated by Napoleon’s coffee embargo. Lammers’ discovery of tender tasty leaves that grow in the dark launched Belgian endive into Parisian culinary stardom.

The wonderful chicory family (Cichorium endivia) includes an array of sophisticated flavors: red, white, and curly endive; escarole; frisée; tardivo; and radicchio. Eaten raw, it’s mildly bitter with a sweet aftertaste, or it can be tamed to sweet by light cooking. Endive offers many taste and texture combinations. Try the leaves with a strong cheese like gorgonzola along with roasted walnuts and sliced pear. You can also use the sturdy endive leaf as an edible spoon to thoroughly enjoy herb dips and spreads—as the French would say, “Ne pas y aller avec le dos de la cuillí¨re!”—which literally translates to “not going at it with the back of the spoon” (in other words, not being timid in your approach).

Preparation: Cut the root end off, separate leaves, and shred, slice, or use whole. Use raw or braise or grill lightly.

Storage: It’s a good thing the light in the fridge goes off when you close the door, Endive likes it dark. Keep leaves tightly wrapped in a damp towel and use within three days.

 

Subscribe to the WEEKLY BITE

* indicates required

 

Recent Food articles:

Two Easy Recipes for Canning Stone Fruit
June 25, 2019
The health benefits of honeydew melon
June 20, 2019
The delicate flavors of white peaches and nectarines
June 13, 2019
Onions, garlic, and leeks provide many nutritional benefits
May 30, 2019
History of the tomato
April 18, 2019
How to prepare Ataulfo mango
April 4, 2019
Making the most of citrus season
February 14, 2019
Three hearty soup recipes you can enjoy all month
February 4, 2019
Tempting winter fruits to brighten your weekly mix
January 31, 2019
Easy meal prep recipes you can eat all week
January 7, 2019

More recent articles:

Assumptions can harm both recruiters and job seekers
July 16, 2019
Simple summer salad dressing recipes
July 11, 2019
Summer fruit varieties and when you’ll be seeing them
July 9, 2019
Easy summer pasta recipe
July 4, 2019
How to create a dress code that works all year
July 2, 2019
More employers are getting serious about time off
June 27, 2019
Don’t let plantar fasciitis pain break your stride
June 11, 2019
How to make stone fruit jams and butters
June 6, 2019
Listen and learn something new about work life—wherever you are
June 4, 2019
Five reasons to consider this extreme endurance event
May 28, 2019

About Us

Our online magazine offers a taste of workplace culture, trends, and healthy living. It features recipes for easy, delicious work meals and tips on quick office workouts. It's also an opportunity to learn about our GoodWorks program, which helps those in need in our communities and supports small, sustainable farms.