When I'm not ready to relinquish the summer's chill vibes and weekly cookouts, I turn to dishes that make for a seamless transition into fall. That means keeping the charcoal nearby, so I can grill up my seasonal favorites. This time of year, I look no further than barbecued endive in tarragon oil with pepato.
With a distinctive bulbous shape and gorgeous golden leaves that can be either sweet or bitter depending on the preparation, Belgian endive is incredibly versatile. Though you may find endives at the grocery store in February, you'll see Italians preparing them in September through December, when they're truly in season. You can also use a cousin of this variety, like radicchio, chicory, escarole or frisee as a substitute. Belgian endive holds up on the grill particularly well and has a delicate bitterness that perfectly complements the tarragon and peppery sheep's milk cheese.
If you've never tried pecorino pepato, you're in for a salty delight. Originally from Sicily, this cheese shares the bite of pecorino Romano but has an even more complex tang (being studded with whole black peppercorns). Shave atop the grilled endive for a beautiful garnish, and then serve alongside two or three meatier vegetables such as eggplant or pumpkin for some well-rounded antipasti. Complete this meal with a glass of Sicilian wine and you'll be eased into fall with much less pain.
Barbecued Endives in Tarragon Oil with Pepato
For the tarragon oil:
• 4 c. water
• 1/2 c. fresh tarragon leaves
• 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
For the endive:
• 4 large Belgian endives
• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
• 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 4 oz. pecorino pepato, pecorino Romano or cacio di Roma cheese
To prepare the tarragon oil: Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil and have a bowl of ice water ready.
Drop the tarragon leaves into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds. Drain the leaves and plunge immediately into the ice water to cool. Drain again and press to remove excess water. Place the blanched tarragon in a blender with olive oil and blend until smooth.
To prepare the endive: Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat the grill.
Halve the endives lengthwise. In a shallow bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of the olive oil with the vinegar and black pepper. Dredge the endive halves in the vinegar mixture and place on the hot grill. Cook until slightly charred, 8 to 10 minutes, and remove to a serving platter.
Spoon the tarragon oil over the endive halves, shave cheese over each serving in long shards with a vegetable peeler, and serve at room temperature.
Nutrition information per serving:
Carbohydrates 8 g
Protein 12 g
Fat 36 g
Saturated fat 9 g
Cholesterol 30 mg
Sodium 450 mg
Total sugars 1 mg
Dietary fiber 6 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 1½ high-fat protein, 5 fat