If goat cheese isn’t up your alley and blue is more your thing, you’re in luck. The fall-like counterpart to yesterday’s endive spears is this version, featuring a fluffy, whipped blue cheese, maple-candied walnuts, dried cranberries and lemon-tossed pears. They were inspired by my favorite salad at Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa — featuring many of the same ingredients atop a pile of cider vinaigrette-dressed spinach — which along with their charcuterie platter (the hot coppa is fantastic) makes up for not getting to enjoy any of their esteemed brews.
Despite lightening up the blue cheese flavor with heavy cream, I apply the cheese to the spears more judiciously than with the herbed goat cheese version so each of the ingredients can shine. However, feel free to increase the blue cheese and cream to eight ounces each if you want to emphasize the sharp flavor even more. And while I’m at it, I often make extra maple walnuts to sprinkle on oatmeal — with maple syrup and brown sugar stirred in — or simply enjoy as a snack on their own.
Which of the two endive spears sounds better to you? I’m still unable to pick a favorite!
Endive Spears with Whipped Blue Cheese, Maple-candied Walnuts, Cranberries and Pears
Preparation Time: 1 – 1 1/2 hours
Makes: About 6 dozen
- 3 ounces walnuts, broken into 1/4″ pieces
- 2 tablespoons (42 grams) pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons (24 grams) evaporated cane juice or granulated white sugar
Whipped blue cheese:
- 6 ounces Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese (or other gluten-free blue cheese)
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup) heavy cream
Endive and everything else:
- 9 whole Belgian endive (any color)
- 2 medium pears (D’Anjou or your favorite variety)
- Juice of 1 lemon (Meyer, if possible)
- 3 ounces (about 2/3 cup) dried cranberries
Line a small, rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper; set aside. Place walnuts in a small saucepan or skillet, set over medium heat. Tossing pan often, toast nuts until they smell nutty and become slightly more brown. Remove nuts immediately to a heatproof dish (they may burn if left in the pan, even if off the heat).
In a cool, small saucepan combine maple syrup and evaporated cane juice. Set pan over medium heat and warm until it reaches a boil and sugar melts. Add toasted walnuts and stir well to coat. Spread nuts out in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Once they’re cool enough to handle, break apart into individual pieces; set aside.
Make Whipped Blue Cheese:
Place blue cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until smooth — about a minute. Scrape down bowl and paddle, add cream and beat — start on low speed, gradually increase to high as it thickens — until stiff peaks form.
Fit a pastry bag with coupler and desired tip — I like Wilton 104, it puts down a nice wide, thin line making application quite quick. Add about half of the whipped blue cheese to bag; set aside. (Refill bag as needed.)
Prep Everything Else and Assemble:
Trim endive root end as needed to remove spears cleanly. Wash and dry thoroughly; set aside.
Core pear and cut into about 1/2″ pieces. Toss together with lemon juice in a small bowl. Drain pears and dry very well; set aside.
Pipe blue cheese onto spears, covering about a third to half of the surface — hold bag very close and perpendicular to surface, quickly move it back in forth in a tight zig-zag. Arrange on serving platter(s). Top each with several pieces of pear, walnuts and cranberries.
Serve immediately. (These are less stable than the goat cheese version because of the whipped cream, pears and candied nuts, so they are best assembled just before serving — however they will hold up OK for a couple hours if kept refrigerated.)