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Taming the Bitter

I love radicchio and Belgian endive for their color and crunch.

But I know quite a few folks who are turned off by their bitterness.

In a world of candy, sodas and high-fructose corn syrup lurking in most everything processed, the flavor of bitter does become a difficult pill to swallow for some palates.

But here’s a way to have your sweet and eat your endive, too.

The secret is high-heat roasting, which caramelizes this variety of chicory until it’s tender and mellows the bitterness until it’s barely there, leaving a natural sweetness behind.

The recipe is from the new “All About Roasting” (W.W. Norton & Company) by one of my favorite cookbook authors, Molly Stevens. Her “All About Braising” book (W.W. Norton & Company) is one I reach for all the time in fall and winter.

Her newest cookbook, of which I received a review copy, includes more than 150 recipes showcasing high-, low- and moderate-heat roasting techniques on everything from veggies, fruit, shellfish and meat.

After getting a surprise package of endive from the folks at California Vegetable Specialties, the only producer of endive in the country, I decided to give the high-heat method a try.

The recipe couldn’t be easier. Just trim and cut the endive, toss with olive oil, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper, then roast at 400 degrees until tender. Drizzle a little sherry vinegar all over, then serve either hot or at room temperature. It makes for a great side dish or buffet offering.

The only drawback is the pretty yellow and burgundy colors of the tips of the raw endive all but disappear once they are cooked, leaving a rather pallid appearance instead.

But just as with anything in life, looks aren’t everything, are they?

Roasted Endive with Sherry Vinegar

(Serves 4 to 6)

6 to 8 heads Belgian endive (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 to 3 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 400 degrees (375 degrees convection). If desired, line a large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Inspect endive for any bruised or discolored spots. Remove any outer leaves that look less than pristine. Trim the thinnest sliver off the base of any that appear browned or dried out. (Endive is grown in a controlled environment and not in dirt and therefore doesn’t need careful washing. However, if the heads seem at all dirty, give them a quick rinse.) Cut each head in half lengthwise from core to tip.

Place endive in a large bowl. Drizzle on the olive oil and season with sugar, salt and pepper (I use about 1/2 teaspoon salt and several generous grindings of black pepper). Toss gently to coat and arrange the endive cut side up on the baking sheet. It’s fine if the pieces are touching, but they should not be squeezed together. If any leaves have fallen off, tuck these under the heads.

Transfer baking sheet to the oven and roast, turning the heads with tongs after 15 minutes so they are cut side down. If the endive near the edges of the pan is browning more than the endive near the center, you may want to remove the pan from the oven and take a moment to rearrange the pieces. Continue roasting until tender and lightly caramelized, about 25 to 30 minutes total.

Transfer endive to a serving platter or individual plates, and immediately sprinkle with sherry vinegar to taste. Roasted endive may be served hot from the oven or at room temperature.

From “All About Roasting” by Molly Stevens

More: Learn Whether It’s En-Dive or On-Deev