En-dive or On-deev? | Discovering the Correct Pronunciation of Endive

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I have a confession to make: I have always been unsure about how to pronounce endive correctly. Is it en-dive or on-deev? I used to think both pronunciations were acceptable. In my mind, only the condescending types who speak with their pinkies held high in the air referred to this chicory family member as “on-deev.” Little did I know, there is actually a difference in pronunciation. Rodger Helwig, the spokesperson for California Vegetable Specialties, enlightened me on this matter. California Vegetable Specialties, located in Rio Vista, California, is the sole producer of endives in the United States. They sell over 4 million pounds of red and white endives annually.

The elongated Belgian endive, with its slender and smooth leaves tightly packed together, is pronounced “on-deev.” It gets its pronunciation from Belgium, its country of origin, where it is pronounced the French way. On the other hand, curly endive, with its wild and disheveled leaves, is pronounced “en-dive.” Curly endive grows in light, offering a distinct contrast to the dark environment in which Belgian endive is cultivated.

The challenging nature of endive cultivation explains why there is only one producer in the United States. The process involves two growth phases before the endives are ready for market. In the first phase, the endives spend 150 days outdoors, growing from seed to root. Then, the plants’ tops are cut off, the roots are dug up, and they enter a dormant phase in cold storage. Afterward, the roots are removed from the cold storage and undergo their second growth phase, which occurs hydroponically in a dark, cool, and humid room. The endives are left to grow for approximately 28 days before being harvested for the market. Thanks to this meticulous process, endives are available year-round in the United States.

Helwig hopes that more Americans will discover the versatility and delightful crispness of endive, along with its nutty and slightly bitter taste. While Europeans consume an impressive 13 to 15 pounds of endive per person annually, Americans currently consume a mere ounce.

Recently, California Vegetable Specialties sent me a “bouquet” of endives, complete with their bottom roots attached, carefully bundled up in cellophane like flowers. I’ve always enjoyed endive raw, particularly in salads. Its leaves can be separated and cut, then tossed with tangerines, pomegranate seeds, or ripe pears. Endive also makes for fantastic party food when the leaves are separated, forming canoes to hold various dips or dollops of seafood salad.

But this time, I decided to experiment with cooking endive. I must admit, I rarely cook it because I am so enamored with its raw form. However, the “Braised Endive in Mustard Vinaigrette” recipe caught my attention. This recipe, taken from “The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, The New Classics,” offers a delightful combination of a strong vinaigrette and the technique of cooking the endives in chicken stock before dressing them.

Endive, cooked in chicken stock, then tossed with a mustardy vinaigrette.

This side dish is incredibly easy to make. While the endives cook for about 20 minutes in a skillet with chicken stock, you can quickly prepare the vinaigrette, a simple blend of mustard, red wine, and extra virgin olive oil. Once the endives are cooked, pat them dry, toss them with the dressing, and garnish with chopped parsley.

The chicken stock mellows the bitterness of the endive, giving it a softer and more rounded flavor. The vinaigrette adds a bold and assertive punch.

Helwig humorously remarks that he doesn’t really care if you call it “en-dive” or “on-deev.” All he wants is for you to enjoy it.

Braised Endive in Mustard Vinaigrette
(Serves 4)

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds Belgian endive (about six heads)
  • 3 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add the endive and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, approximately 5 minutes. Pour the chicken stock into the skillet, bring it to a boil, and cover. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, turning the endive occasionally, until it is just tender, which takes about 20 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the endive to a paper-towel-lined plate and discard the stock. Pat the endive dry and set it aside.

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. While whisking constantly, slowly pour the oil in a steady stream until the dressing is emulsified. Gently toss each endive in the dressing, ensuring they are well coated. Garnish with parsley and serve at room temperature. Place any additional dressing on the side.

Recipe from “The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, The New Classics” by the editors of Martha Stewart Living.


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Discover more delightful recipes and culinary adventures at BDK Restaurant.

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