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Apr 3, 2013 09:58 AM

What to do with Escarole?

I bought a head of escarole with the plan of making Itailian Wedding Soup, but did not. Any suggestions on how it can be used? Ideally, I'd just like to use it as a side vegetable dish for dinner tonigh. Should I treat it like spinach -- e.g., sauteed with garlic? Can it be used in a salad or will it be too bitter raw?

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  1. I sometimes saute it like spinach or it can be braised in a little chicken stock. My favorite use is a simple soup--chicken broth and escarole with cappelini topped with a nice grating of Parmigiano...yum

    1. We ate it all the time raw, chopped fine in a salad, when I was a kid.

      My dad liked this prep, and we'd have it as a side at Easter a lot. In your biggest fry pan, lightly saute some (okay, lots of) chopped garlic in a good amount of olive oil. Add chopped escarole (you can do a head, or less), and sprinkle S&P on top. Wilt them down a bit, not to mush, but soften the escarole up. Drain a can of fava beans (we used progresso) and put in a small bowl. Chop up a small sweet onion or a bunch of scallions (using some greens) and mix with the fava beans. Season the favas with a tiny pinch of sugar and either balsamic or apple cider (what we used) vinegar.

      Toss the fava mix with the escarole, and then mix in a cup of shaved salty cheese (romano, parmesan, asiago), shaved. This is too cheesy for most families. Not for us. For a nice contrast, you can finely chop some arugula and mix that in too, for peppery crunch.

      1. To your salad question, Masha... I find the outer leaves on escarole too tough for eating raw. I prefer to peel off those outer leaves till I get to the light green/yellow/white inner leaves. Save the outer leaves for a quick braise with evoo/garlic/ red pepper flakes/anchovies. The inner leaves are wonderful in either a mixed green salad or in a salad with tomatoes (or alone).

        There's a recipe from Marian Morash , of Victory Garden fame, using greens having been wilted as in a braise, then setting a couple of fillets of firm white fin fish on top and steaming the fish on the greens. Absolutely fabulous!

        1. Split the heads down the middle. Grill the inside faces for a minute or so and then turn 90 degrees and grill for another minute or so. Plate the escarole round side down and dress with a garlicky vinaigrette and some shaved, hard cheese. Blue cheese dressing works well too.

          8 Replies
          1. re: MGZ

            Sounds great but please clarify the instructions about turning 90 degrees. Do you mean to place the escarole halves on their sides? I don't see how this would work. (Placing them on their "backs" so that outer leaves are on the grill surface would be 180 degrees.)

            1. re: masha

              No, I just meant that you turn the split “face” a one quarter turn to create a criss-cross pattern on the grilled surface. The idea is to caramelize the one side, but not fully cook the entire escarole. The end result adds a sweetness to the inherent bitterness of the veg, but retains some of its basic structure. Personally, I like it best with a blue cheese, fresh garlic, anchovy, and olive oil puree (watered down a bit with apple cider vinegar for the blending, but others seem to like a basic vinaigrette with a bit of garlic).

                1. re: masha

                  No worries. My description was a bit hurried and hence a bit vague. Just promise that if you try my approach, you'll let us know what you think. A gas grill works, but I prefer an oak wood fire.

                2. re: MGZ

                  Must try that. I've done it with romaine, but this sounds amazing.

                3. re: masha

                  I am guessing that they mean staying cut side down, but rotating it so you get crossed grill marks.

                  I could be wrong...

                4. re: MGZ

                  Thanks to everyone for their ideas. I went with MGZ's suggestion to grill the halved head and dress with vinaigrette as I had all the necessary ingredients and it seemed like the best complement to the rest of the meal (linguini tossed with sautéed portobello mushrooms, olive oil, and grated Romano cheese).

                  I grilled the escarole on a grill pan on my stove and then dressed it with a vinaigrette of half-and-half balsamic and sherry vinegar, with blue cheese whisked into the vinaigrette. Turned out well and met my goal of using up the escarole before it went bad.

                5. Escarole makes a great salad. Dress as you would for a caeser salad.

                  I also love a quickly grilled wedge of salad as MGZ describes, on a nice slab of grilled bread, with a slice of good ham (prosciutto) and cheese (something melty like provolone), run under the broiler and served open face. This is one of my favorite weekend lunches.