I realize this might not look like much. It probably looks suspiciously like a salad, which means it’s probably going to be the last kid picked for your holiday cooking olympics. It doesn’t taste like ginger, linzer or crushed candy canes. It smacks of January Food, the stuff of resolutions and repentance, and there’s no time for that now. But I need to tell you about it anyway, urgently, because the preoccupation with this salad has hit me so intensely, so wholly, it’s basically the only thing I want to eat, and since I’m ostensibly the grownup here, this is exactly what I’m going to do.
I had this for the first time two weekends ago, when I got to spring a surprise Miami Beach getaway on my husband as a belated birthday present. We had dinner the first night at José Andrés’ Bazaar, the kind of prolonged, indulgent meal that, I’m sure purely coincidentally, usually only occurs when we’re not simultaneously parenting. I don’t think we had a bite of food that was less than pristine. I’ve been a little obsessed with Andrés’ cooking since I lived in DC, right around the time Jaleo opened. I remember piling in there one night in 1999 with friends in town from New York and one told us that he really wanted to study in Paris the next year, but he needed someone to stay in his rent-controlled East Village apartment and also take care of his cat while he was gone. My roommate and I have never volunteered ourselves so quickly, not that anyone asked me my “welcome to new york” story. Even without such life-changing memories, the food was perfect, and no matter how many pork and scallop products were on the menu, there were always vegetables too, treated as carefully and respectfully as the finest jamón serrano. Our Miami meal was no different, which is why I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that of everything we ate, it was this seemingly random composition of goat cheese, almonds, oranges, chives, sea salt, endive, sherry vinegar and olive oil that I haven’t stopped pining over since.
My mother and I had this for lunch on Friday. I had more with dinner. I managed to eke another plate in on Sunday night and I can tell you with unwavering certainty that I will be eating this alongside my latkes on Tuesday. It’s at once a salad, appetizer and also finger food for parties, because, well, if you think I ate those little endive boats with a knife and fork, you might be mistaking me for someone with better breeding. Besides, how better to taste the happy commingling of fragrant citrus, tangy cheese, crunch of deeply toasted almonds, droplets of intense sherry vinegar and fruity olive oil, all finished with sea salt than to grab it by the endive boat and sail off with it?
On the radio: I’ll be on the Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC at 1 p.m. EST today, and we’re talking about Hanukah food delights: latkes, doughnuts, brisket and more. [Details]
One year ago: Linzer Torte
Two years ago: Cashew Butter Balls
Three years ago: Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce
Four years ago: Broiled Mussels
Five years ago: Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce
Six years ago: Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake and Sausage-Stuffed Potatoes
Seven years ago: Apple Cranberry Crisp and Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
Eight years ago: Boozy Baked French Toast, Onion Soup
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Frozen Coconut Limeade
1.5 Years Ago: Bowties with Sugar Snaps, Lemon and Ricotta
2.5 Years Ago: Chocolate Swirl Buns
3.5 Years Ago: Rich Homemade Ricotta
Endives with Oranges and Almonds
Inspired by a version at José Andrés’ Bazaar in Miami Beach
Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a light meal
3 oranges (I used 2 navel and one cara cara orange)
2 heads of endive
2 ounces soft goat cheese or chevre, crumbled
1/3 cup sliced almonds or chopped marcona almonds, well-toasted
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for drizzling
1 tablespoon minced chives
Flaky or other sea salt, to finish
Cut the top and bottom off your oranges, exposing the citrus flesh inside. Then, resting on either end, cut the peels, including the white pith, off the oranges. [Set aside for orangettes!] Use your knife to cut between each membrane and orange segment, cutting only so far as the center, which should release the orange segments. You can chop them once or twice more, so the pieces are not too large.
Trim end off endives and arrange individual leaves on a medium platter. Add a few orange chunks to each, then goat cheese crumbles and almonds. Season with black pepper, then drizzle with a very thin stream of olive oil. Add a few droplets of sherry vinegar to each “boat.” Scatter chives over and finish each with sea salt.
Dig in. No forks needed, unless you’re classy.