The Paris markets in winter are filled with beautiful heads of endive, both the traditional white/yellow ones and the purplish ones. I love to slice and throw the large heads into a winter salad with arugula and radicchio. The smaller ones, though, make perfect delivery vehicles for all sorts of savory bites—no fork or knife required. You can always use them as scoops for your favorite dip, but I really recommend you try this bite-sized endive appetizer stuffed with blue cheese and pecans.
This dish calls for only 5 ingredients and a minimal amount of time to put together, but the combination of flavors is truly delicious. Endive, toasted pecans, chopped sweet dates, and salty crumbled blue cheese together create a salty-sweet balance of flavor. Top it off with a syrupy balsamic vinegar reduction, and you have a healthy appetizer that is still completely crave-worthy.
How do you make Blue Cheese and Pecan Endive Appetizer?
First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 175 degrees Celsius. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and add 1/2 cup of pecans. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant and toasted.
Let cool, then chop into small pieces. Meanwhile, pour 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, until vinegar has reduced and thickened. You should be left with about 3 tablespoons total. Peel off any bruised leaves on 3 small Belgian endive heads, then rinse. Cut off the bottom of each head, peel leaves off, and place on a paper towel to dry.
As you make your way peeling leaves from the outside to the inside, you may want to cut off the bottom of the endive as you go so that the leaves continue to come off easily. Prepare 8 pitted dates by chopping into small pieces. Crumble 3 ounces of blue cheese into a small bowl. Now it’s time to assemble. Lay your endive cups onto your serving platter and sprinkle a little of each of the main ingredients: chopped pecans, chopped dates, and crumbled blue cheese. No need to measure anything, just eyeball that you have roughly the same amount of each.
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction, and serve.
Can you make this endive appetizer in advance?
This appetizer is not great for make-ahead, though you can take care of some of the time-consuming steps in advance. Toast and chop the pecans a day or two before and keep in an airtight container. Chop the dates and crumble the cheese—keep those in the fridge after prepping. You can also make the balsamic syrup in advance—however, it will thicken up after it cools. You may need to reheat briefly in the microwave when you’re ready to drizzle it on your endive cups.
Endive itself is tricky though, and the delicate edges can brown fairly quickly and become soft. If you are just looking to prep the endive an hour or so before serving, you can rinse your endive and peel off the individual leaves. To keep them fresh, wrap the leaves in a damp paper towel and put in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.
Ingredient tips for Blue Cheese and Pecan Endive Appetizer
- Pecans: I love the toasted, chopped pecans in this dish, but you could also replace with walnuts or even almonds.
- Blue Cheese: With only a few ingredients in this appetizer, the quality of each really comes through. So buy a delicious blue cheese: Roquefort or Gorgonzola are perfect. Definitely buy a cheese that is not pre-crumbled. The pre-crumbled varieties are almost always dried out, and you want a creamy cheese in this recipe to complement the crunchy pecans and endive.
- Dates: Prunes would make a good substitute here, or even dried apricots.
- Balsamic Vinegar: If you want to save some time, you can buy a pre-made reduction. Here in France, I’ve found a sweet balsamic vinegar reduction called Velours de Vinaigre Balsamique, that is worth seeking out if you can find it. If you buy a bottle, you can also use it to make a thick and creamy balsamic vinaigrette—it’s a little sweeter than my traditional vinaigrettes, but delicious paired with salads with a lot of acidic ingredients. Adding dijon mustard to your dressing will also cut some of the sweetness. Another option for saving time is to combine a few tablespoons of regular balsamic vinegar with a tablespoon of honey to thicken and sweeten it up. Or use pomegranate molasses instead of a balsamic vinegar reduction for a different take on this recipe.
What is endive?
The word endive actually refers to the leafy part of several members of the chicory family, including escarole and frisée. That can lead to some confusion with the name endive, and that’s the reason I’ve specified “Belgian endive” for this recipe. Like other chicory plants, the Belgian endive has a slight bitter flavor, which provides balance to the sweet and tangy flavors in this recipe.
Have you ever wondered why endive is on the more expensive side for vegetables? It may be because the growing process is so complicated. Belgian endive is actually grown twice before harvesting. To grow endive, you start by planting seeds which generate green leafy plants with a large root system. You then uproot the plants, discarding the greens, and replant the roots in sand or soil in a “forcing container” inside in a cold, dark environment. Endive heads will later sprout from the roots. The whole process takes months, which in part explains the large price tag.
Is Belgian endive healthy for you?
Endive is very low in calories, carbohydrates, and fat. Its nutritional content is not huge, but it is a good source of vitamin K and fiber.
What else can I make with Belgian endive?
Endive is delicious in a winter salad, paired with other greens like arugula, spinach, or radicchio, and also by itself. Endive leaves are a great replacement for higher carb foods like crackers or potato chips if you’re looking to serve a dip with a low-carb delivery mechanism. And, endive can also be grilled, baked, or braised, and is particularly delicious as a side for seafood.
Looking for other delicious appetizer recipes?
You might enjoy some of my other favorite appetizer recipes, such as:
- Buffalo Cauliflower Dip with Fresh Herbs
- Charred Tomatillo and Red Onion Guacamole
- Old Bay Shrimp with Dipping Sauce
- Antipasto Stromboli
- Baked Brie with Fig Jam
- Smoked Salmon Potato Chips with Everything Bagel Seasoning
- 3 small heads Belgian endive (about 160g)
- 1/2 cup pecans (2 oz/ 60 g)
- 8 dates, pitted (2.5 oz/75 g)
- 3 oz/90 g Roquefort or other blue cheese
- 1/2 cup (118ml) balsamic vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 175 degrees Celsius.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and add the pecans. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant and toasted.
- Let cool, then chop into small pieces.
- Meanwhile, pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, until vinegar has reduced and thickened. You should have about 3 tablespoons left. Let cool until ready to use.
- Peel off any bruised leaves on your endive, then rinse.
- Cut off bottom and peel each leaf off and place on a paper towel to dry. As you make your way peeling leaves from the outside to the inside, you may want to cut off the bottom of the endive as you go so that the leaves continue to come off easily.
- Prepare your dates by chopping into small pieces.
- Crumble your blue cheese into small chunks.
- Now it’s time to assemble. Lay your endive cups onto your serving platter and sprinkle a little of each of the main ingredients: chopped pecans, chopped dates, and crumbled blue cheese. No need to measure anything, just eyeball that you have roughly the same amount of each.
- Drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction and serve.
You can prep your ingredients in advance with the exception of the endive cups, which will wilt and turn brown at the edges. Note that if you make the balsamic syrup in advance, it will thicken as it cools. If it is completely cold and too thick when you are ready to use it, just microwave it for a few seconds to warm it up a bit.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 245Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 489mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 4gSugar: 10gProtein: 8g