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Rediscovering Endive

While at the International Food Blogger's Conference here in Seattle on Friday night, I was pleased to stroll through the event's Grand Opening Reception. After being welcomed with beautifully prepared Bristol Bay Sockeye, I headed towards the Gift Suite where sponsors were on hand to talk about their products and to offer samples. When I worked my way around the room to California Endive, I was thrilled to see that they were sharing gorgeous packages of freshly picked white endive!

I was first introduced to endive when I traveled to Paris and lived with a family while in high school back in the 1980s. I was always amazed at how my host mother would work at the post office all day and then somehow manage to serve beautifully prepared endive salads before she served our main course dinner each night. Admittedly, I don't manage to do that in my home each evening and I rarely serve endive. However, my interest in this nutritious and crunchy vegetable was reinvigorated after traveling to Paris this summer.

When the California Endive representative discovered that I lived in Seattle, she encouraged me to take three or more packages home. (Many of the other conference attendees were from all over the US.) She told me that they will last about two weeks in the fridge. I tucked three packages into my goody bag and used them in a super simple tomato, lettuce and endive chop chop salad today. Dressed with a light lime and cumin vinaigrette, the dish was ridiculously quick and simple but the crunchiness of the endive made it very satisfying and refreshing...Basically it was just what I needed after a weekend of indulgence. 

If you haven't thought about California Endive in a while, then consider these tidbits of information, which are posted right on their packaging: Endive is low in fat, calories, and sodium and delivers almost 50% of the potassium found in a banana. Endive is easily served with hummus, guacamole, salsa and other healthy dips and it makes a very good gluten-free and carb free alternative to chips, crackers and bread! 

Now, admittedly, my French host mother in high school probably wasn't concerned with gluten and carb free alternatives for her family back then,  but clearly Madame  Vidal was on to something healthy and delicious way back then! Are you an endive fan? For recipes, check out the California Endive recipe section for ideas. 

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French Those Beans!

I'm a traditionalist and firmly believe that sometimes the simplest tools and techniques can bring the most impressive results in the kitchen. I was reminded of this in August when I stood staring at my pole bean teepee in the garden.

Back in May, I planted a motley selection of pole beans, the majority of which were scarlet runners. I don't normally grow scarlet runners but hefty pots of starts were being sold for a dollar at a local plant sale so I bought a few. The plants did quite well over the summer and when I returned home to Seattle after traveling on the East Coast I realized that my beans had grown a bit larger than I normally like. Scarlet runner beans tend to be tough so you really have to pounce and harvest before they grow too large. 

At first I thought of just sacrificing the harvest and sending the beans to the worm bin. I decided to rethink that option and was soon reminded of some gorgeous Frenched beans that I had seen in Paris a few weeks earlier. Hmmm. I decided to harvest the beans, grab a VERY sharp chef's knife and get to work. I stripped the tough string running down the center of the pod and then lined up a bunch of beans. Using my sharp knife, I cut the beans very thinly on a 25 to 30 degree angle.  Admittedly, this was a bit tedious because I had a lot of beans but it went quickly and resulted in thin and tender long strips of scarlet runners.

When I posted a photo of the beans on my Facebook page, my friends mentioned that Frenched beans seem to taste better. Indeed, I think they do. Cooked in lightly salted water and dressed with a little garlic, salt and butter right before serving, they were super! 

I'm glad I didn't toss those beans to the worms and am happy to report that sometimes the simplest solutions are the most rewarding! 

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