Belgian Endive/Witlof/Chicory Salad with Mandarins and Walnuts

There are few vegetables that have different names in the UK, the US, and Australia, but witlof is one of them. Witlof is what it’s called in Australia and the Netherlands, but it is called Belgian Endive in the US and Chicory in the UK. In this post I’m going to stick to witlof, as this is a Dutch salad.

A witlof salad with mandarins and walnuts is a very homey Dutch dish, that is often made with canned mandarins and store-bought dressing. As such it is okay but nothing special. With a few touches I’ve transformed it into something a lot better: using fresh mandarins rather than from a can, toasting the walnuts, and making my own dressing with fresh mandarin juice and zest, honey and walnut oil.

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And thus a vegetarian dish (or even vegan if you substitute the honey in the dressing) is quite wonderful even though it can be ready in less than 15 minutes.

One of the keys to this is the use of fresh mandarins, as they have a much more interesting flavor than their canned cousins. The only problem is how to get rid of all the white pith. It takes a lot of time and patience to painstakingly remove the white pith with your finger nails or a knife. All the recipes I found online insist that the white pith should be removed, but they do not offer a quick and easy way to do this. Wikipedia told me that the white pith is removed prior to canning by scalding in hot water and submerging the mandarins in a lye solution. This inspired me to try scalding the madarin segments in hot water to which I had added some baking powder to make it alkaline (just like lye). It worked like a charm: most of the white pith could now be easily removed and the mandarin segments tasted great this way.

Ingredients

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For 2 large or 2 small servings

500 grams (1.1 lbs) witlof / chicory / Belgian endive

80 grams (1/2 cup) walnuts

5 Tbsp walnut oil

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp honey

salt and freshly ground white pepper

3 mandarins

1 tsp baking powder

Preparation

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Roast the walnuts for 10 minutes at 150C/300F and allow to cool. Leave them whole, break them in halves or coarsely chop them according to your preference.

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Peel two of the mandarins and don’t worry about the with pith for now.

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Bring about half a litre (two cups) of water to which you have added a teaspoon of baking powder to a boil. Scald each mandarin for about 10 seconds or enough to soften the white pith without cooking the mandarin too much.

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Plunge the mandarin into cold water to stop the cooking.

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Now you can easily scrape off the white pith with a small knife.

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Cut the bottom of each witlof. The inside of witlof is quite bitter, so I like to remove it. Cut the witlof in quarters lengthwise. Now you can easily cut out the triangular base.

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Cut the witlof into 1 cm (1/2 inch) ribbons. Wash them in cold water and spin dry.

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To make the dressing, combine 5 Tbsp walnut oil, 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tsp honey, and the juice and finely grated zest of the remaining mandarin in a small bowl.

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Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper, and whisk to emulsify. Taste and adjust the dressing to your liking.

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To serve, toss the witlof with the dressing and arrange on individual plates. Garnish with mandarin segments and walnuts.

Wine pairing

This pairs well with a riesling because of the citrus. It depends on the bitterness of the witlof (which can vary quite a bit) and the bitterness of the riesling (which can also vary quite a bit from riesling to riesling) how well the pairing will turn out to be.

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4 thoughts on “Belgian Endive/Witlof/Chicory Salad with Mandarins and Walnuts

  1. Your treatment of the mandarin is something that I have not seen or know about.
    Gorgeous salad of Belgian Endive/Witlof/Chicory :-). It has everything one would want from a salad: sweet and bitter; crunchy and smooth. The dressing looks so flavorful – and I like that you re-inforced the citrus flavors of the salad. Yummy!

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  2. What a great salad, Stefan! I love to pop some mandarins in salads later in Winter, a little sunshine on a plate when we really need it here. Great tip, too, for removing the pith. I never considered blanching the mandarins first. Genius! This isn’t just a tasty salad, its a beauty, too, and would be a welcome part of a celebratory dinner.

    Like

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