This Sunday I started with a typical trip to the market: a well-planned grocery list riding happily in my purse, reusable bag clutched under my arm, and a twenty tucked in my pocket. The list looked something like this:
I had good intentions, really. Under normal circumstances I'm sensibly faithful to my purchase plan. But in an inexplicable, rapid-onset frenzy of produce gluttony, the noble list was ditched and the respectable basket of apples and garlic was suddenly bulging under the weight of things whose names had never graced the list at all - persimmons, rapini, spaghetti squash, meyer lemons, blood oranges and fresh dates, to name a few. Though the vegetable-fever lasted only minutes, it was long enough for greens to fly and for impulse decisions to be made. The reusable bag was soon outnumbered by plastic counterparts, and the twenty was ousted for the Mastercard.
Among my grocery-basket captives was a curious head of lettuce, one that I'd never used before. They called it Endive Lettuce, but I was suspicious. It looked an awful lot like escarole which I knew was related to the endive. And since these veggie-mongers were also touting Meyer lemons under the pseudonym "Sweet Lemons", I knew the nomenclature here was not to be trusted.
So, I did the only thing that could be done with a mystery leafy grean: I brought it home, took its picture, and sauteed it in a pan with some garlic, orange zest, and crushed red pepper, and topped it with dates and toasted almonds. The result? Lip-smacking.
Once I found out it was delicious, of course I had to satisfy the question of what it was. Five years of university has taught me all about research, so like any good academic, I headed straight for Wikipedia. It turns out that it is, in fact, Endive Lettuce after all! (I must learn to be less suspicious of veggie-toters - they're generally honest people). It is also known as curly endive - related to escarole. It is wonderfully fresh with a great, peppery bite. It would be delicious in a salad with blue cheese and toasted walnuts. Or, of course, served warm with orange, dates and almonds.
Wilted Endive Lettuce with Orange, Dates, and Almonds
Experiment - I'm sure any other slightly bitter green would be equally delicious when paired with bright citrus and sweet dates.
1 head endive lettuce greens
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
2 tbsp almonds, toasted and chopped
2 tbsp pitted dates, chopped
salt, to taste
1. Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic, and cook until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
2. Add lettuce, orange zest and juice. Saute until stems are tender and leaves are bright green. Add chili flakes and season with salt.
3. Remove from heat and toss in almonds and dates. Serve warm.