One of the most interesting, versatile spices is the earthy nutmeg. It is the kernel of a fruit grown in the Spice Islands and the outside lace covering is called mace. It enhances egg dishes, sweet baked goods, sauces, Jamaican/island recipes and is a key ingredient of the centuries old Middle Eastern spice blend, raz al hanout. In Europe, particularly Italy, this nutty spice it is added to wilted leafy greens to offset any bitterness. No doubt, freshly grated nutmeg just adds dimension to recipes like no other.
As we anxiously await the first green shoots of spring, I admit I have entirely lost my excitement for root vegetables. So in this “in-between” month of March, I look to the Belgian endive to tide me over. A classic French bistro dish of Gratin d’Endives au Jambon just hits the spot. TheComte cheese gives it the mouth feel of a comfort food yet the dish is lighter due to the vegetable base. The salty ham layer adds the meaty bit needed. And talk about the fresh nutmeg balancing out the bitter roasted endives! The simple 5 minute prep and quick unattended oven time make this dish a winner in this busy mom’s recipe book. Enjoy it today.
Recipe for Gratin d’Endives au Jambon
4 large Belgian endive, sliced in half lengthwise
4 slices of Comte or Gruyere cheese, 4-6 oz
4 slices boiled ham
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a gratin dish, add melted butter plus 1/2 cup of water. Add endive halves cut side up. Season with pepper. Cover and bake for 20-25 minutes until the endive is tender but still firm. Layer the ham on top then add the cheese layer. Liberally grate fresh nutmeg on the top. Bake uncovered for approx 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serves 4
Note: For a more decadent version, add a bechamel sauce layer after the endive is roasted (prior to adding the ham and cheese).