In the 1980’s, the production of such European pantry staples as radicchio, exotic mushrooms, goat cheese, and olive oil became American cottage industries. Even Belgian endive is now grown in California, and a red variety as well as the more common white variety are cultivated. When purchasing Belgian endives, look for large stalks that are creamy white, shading to pale yellow at the tips. Since endives are grown from roots that are “forced” to bud in dark growing rooms, they never touch dirt and therefore do not need to be washed. Assemble these colorful spears at the last minute as light causes the leaves to change color. I like to serve them at a formal dinner party or a cocktail party.
- 1 small red tomato, seeded and finely diced
- 1 small yellow tomato, seeded and finely diced
- 3 scallions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 large heads Belgian Endive
- 1 1/2 ounces Alaskan smoked salmon, finely chopped parsley sprigs for garnish
TO MAKE SALSA: Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to mix well. Taste for seasoning. Drain off excess liquid, cover, and set aside.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the cream cheese and dill and process until the cream cheese is whipped slightly and the dill is evenly blended.
Separate the endive spears (as you get closer to the center, you may have to trim the bottom of the head to free the spears.)
Spoon the cream cheese mixture into a large plastic bag, pushing it down to one corner. Cut off about 1/4 inch from the filled corner tip of the bag, or a piece just wide enough to push the cream cheese through. Pipe some herbed cream cheese onto the blunt end of each Belgian endive spear. (Alternatively, you can use a teaspoon to spread the cream cheese onto the endive spears.) Place some of the chopped salmon on top, then spoon about 1 teaspoon of the salsa onto the salmon.
TO SERVE: Arrange the spears on a serving platter and garnish with parsley sprigs.
NOTE: Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead through step 2, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.