What is it with endives?
I just don't get it... why is this such a popular ingredient? It is so darn bitter! Is it often used because it's cheap? I actually think that it might be expensive...
Do people actually like the bitterness? Did I just get a bad endive salad?
Endive is slightly bitter ... but not overly bitter, IMO. It could be the endive you had wasn't good or was old. Usually it's not too cheap (at least not here) as it requires special growing conditions to keep it the pale color it is. It's good with hummos or as a small scoop for something slightly sweet like crab salad.
I love endive, especially the Belgian; the bitterness is a great foil for other flavors. Try taking a leaf of Belgian endive, putting some herbed cream or goat cheese on it and topping with a small piece of smoked salmon. This is an easy appetizer that always disappears.
For a main dish, take one head of Belgian endive per person, cut it through almost to the root, insert a slice of Gruyere cheese, and wrap with a thin slice of ham. Place in a microwave dish just large enough to hold however many endives you have. Add a little chicken stock, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and microwave until endive is tender. Serve with some crusty bread to sop up the yummy juices and you've got yourself a very tasty light supper.
A little lemon juice and wilting mitigates the bitterness (this works for any green). I usually cut them up on a mandaline, make a dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, an herb (mint, dill, whatever is fresh and on hand) and a little dijon mustard and then let the endives sit in the fridge for about half an hour--very refreshing in the summer.
There are two quite different types of endive.
One type, Belgian Endive or Witloof, is is grown for roots which are then forced in darkness. This type should have a mild bitterness and flavor and should have no trace of green. Green edges or worse are caused by light exposure and are indicative of improper handling. Supermarket conditions cause rapid deterioration. Green indicates produce that is over the hill and has developed toughness and bitterness.
The other major type of endive has curly leaves and includes frisee. This type makes a nice salad ingredient if it is young enough and grown under cool conditions. The green outer leaves on large heads can be tough, bittter and strong tasting while the whiter (blanched) inner leaves are still good.
Tough, old curly endive is terrible but that is what is in stores all too often.