Friday, July 02, 2004

Liberty chicory for your July 4th barbecue. 

I can still recall one of the defining political moments of my youth, back when I was fresh with the dizzy rush of my first voter registration.

(Strangely, registering for the draft had not had quite the same giddy effect on me, though I had managed to secure a camouflage vest to wear for the occasion. In one of those pointless instances of purely notional political action, I scrawled some sort of defiant message across the face of the registration card. And then went home to collect my student loans, I suppose. Anyway.)

The Spring of 1988 was fresh with promise: the prospect of Paul Simon as our next President had at least three or four other people besides myself excited at the thought of installing a true prairie populist in the White House to replace the outgoing President Reagan.

Well, we all know where that dream went.

No doubt the Dukakis campaign was relieved when it was announced that I was going to throw my support to their camp, which I did by sticking up at least one poster in my room and sporting a button on my backpack. I had secured this paraphernalia by sneaking one rainy night into the McLean County (Illinois) Democratic headquarters while my parents sat in their idling car a couple of blocks away, hoping not to be seen. Progressive though they both are, at the time they were both active in local politics and, given the realities of Downstate politics since about 1856 or so, they could not afford to be seen loitering around with an unwashed bunch of Democrats.

The campaign of 1988 is remembered in part for such perfidious and cynical Bush attacks on Dukakis as the Willie Horton issue or charges that the good Governor was a waffler. Or, for those with idiosyncratic memories, the belgian endive attack.

The timing of this attack was fortunate in one respect: I had been casting about for a simple Halloween costume and George H.W. Bush had handed me one on the figurative platter. I arrayed myself in green, hung a crudely lettered sign about my neck and (fueled in equal parts by political conviction and cheap beer) would waylay unsuspecting acquaintances like some Ancient Mariner and relate to them in colorful language what exactly I thought about those clowns from Kennebunkport.

Which is why today I can be counted on to be the guy who brings the braised endive to the table when its time to grill. The marinade cuts the bitterness of the endive and the dish makes a nice addition to anything from a grilled burger to grilled fish.

That is if you can stand to sit around a table with me while I poke moodily at my plate and grumble about the lousy state of American politics.


4-6 belgian endives, sliced in half lengthwise
2-3 red and/or yellow bell peppers, cored and quartered lengthwise
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Powdered or whole-seed coriander
2-3 limes
Fresh ground pepper, salt

In a bowl, combine enough balsamic vinegar and olive oil to slosh around on your endives. I use a ratio of about half and half, oil and vinegar, but adjust to taste.

Add some coriander (maybe a tablespoon?) to the oil and vinegar, grind some pepper in, and add maybe a teaspoon of salt. Squeeze in some lime juice. Combine.

Add your endives, roll them around in the mixture to coat. Let sit (turning periodically) for at least half an hour.

Place the endives cut side down on a medium to hot grill. Put the bell peppers, skin side down, on the grill. Flip the endive when the cut side gets nice and browned, then cook a little longer. Remove the peppers when the skins get sort of bubbly and darkened.

Array the endive and peppers on a festive serving dish. Spoon some of the marinade over the peppers and endives. If you are an East Coast boutique liberal, you will no doubt want to garnish it or something. Knock yourself out.

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