A Side Dish For Love: Braised Endives
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas to readers and friends. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has just announced that she has a new one in the works; tentatively named “Meals from the Homemade Pantry,” due out in 2015.
The first time I cooked for Joey, I cooked for him what I would cook for myself alone. (The food of my picky childhood, the quick nutrition that my mother had made for me over and over.) It would have been some day in that fall of 2001, in one of those moments when the afternoon had ended and the evening was beginning. It would have been one of those moments that I knew that if we were to continue the day, if I were to keep him here, we’d have to eat something.
I’m not sure that I’ve ever told you this story. How we went to a tiny school, but never knew each other? How Joey and I both (as many good love stories go) were lovingly attached to others who’d already graduated and were waiting in distant cities for us? And how we ended up with the exact same class schedule our senior year, living a block apart?
I think that the first time we cook for someone we might love, it’s a little bit like taking off our clothes. It’s that intimate, strangely exhilarating, and mostly overwhelming. Maybe it’s after a day of wandering or adventure, that goes by like there’s no world outside. Maybe lunch was skipped because we just plain forgot, and now we’re not hungry and so hungry at the same time. And then, if we’re young, there’s the funny feeling of playing house—two plates, two forks, two napkins. Maybe there’s wine, but it could just as well be water and we’d feel strange and drunk anyway.
The reason I’m remembering all this is because I’ve just finished Louisa Weiss’s book, My Berlin Kitchen. In the time I’d been reading, my head was somewhere else, and I blame Louisa entirely. My Berlin Kitchen is a love story, and, as is the case with truly good writing, she’s pulled me into her love story while making me feel the feelings of my own. I’ve never been to Berlin, but I love inhabiting the city she creates.
Of course, there’s food in Louisa’s book—delicious and wonderful food that makes it hard to decide whether to read another chapter or get a pot heating on the stove. She feeds us through dinners alone and holidays, through depression and small New York apartments. And I think that through it all, my very favorite parts are when she lets us into the kitchen in the beginning of her love stories. I’d forgotten the intimacy of those moments, the wonder of the first time we eat together.
(an equally appropriate dish for first love and family dinner, excellent with roast chicken, but perhaps even more excellent alone in the kitchen with no fork or knife in sight.)
From My Berlin Kitchen by Louisa Weiss. (I’ve taken it from the book exactly here, both because the recipe is pretty perfect, and because if you’ve never read Louisa’s words, I want to give you a little taste of them.)
Serves 2 as a side dish.
3 to 4 Belgian endives
3 tablespoons olive oil
A pinch of sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
1. Wash and dry the endives and pull off any discolored outer leaves. Cut them in half lengthwise and trim off the root end but leave the endive halves intact. Cut out the inner core.
2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy, lidded 3-quart saute pan over medium heat. Put the endives, cut side down, in the pan. (If your endives are huge or if you double the recipe, you may have to do this step in batches.) Let the endives cook for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, letting them brown but not burn.
3. When all the endive halves have been browned on both sides, squeeze them into the pan and sprinkle them with the sugar, salt, and pepper. Let the sugar melt for a few seconds, then add the lemon juice, immediately turn the heat to low, and cover the pan.
4. Let the endives cook for 15 minutes. They should be fork-tender and caramelized. Remove the endives from the pan and put them on a serving plate. Raise the heat to medium and reduce the cooking juices in the pan to a thin syrup, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes. If you want a richer sauce, add the tablespoon of butter to the pan and stir it in until it has melted and emulsified, creating a silky sauce, an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Butter or no butter, pour the sauce over the endives and serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from Eatingfromthegroundup.com. All text and photos copyright 2008-13 by Alana Chernila.