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What to do with Escarole?

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  • masha Apr 3, 2013 09:58 AM
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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: MGZ

                Sorry, I'm so dense!

                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...

                  1. re: THoey1963

                    Exactly.

                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.

                  1. One of my favorite comfort foods since childhood is escarole and bean stew (I don't use broth - not needed due to the high water content in the escarole - so it is thicker and more hearty than a soup). After washing well, roughly chop or tear about 4-5 heads of escarole (it cooks down a LOT). In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, lightly saute a good amount of garlic (I use a full head - sliced in half or thirds, not chopped) in a tablespoon or so of olive oil until fragrant; be careful not to burn. Roughly chop a stick or two of good pepperoni into chunks and add to the garlic and oil. Add the escarole in batches and stir until wilted. Toss in 4-5 cans of white cannelini beans and cook until escarole and beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper as needed (crushed red pepper optional) and serve with lots of crusty bread to dip and scoop onto soup spoons. Even better the next day. Hearty Italian peasant food, learned at my great-grandmother's knee.

                    1. Lots of good ideas here. I also love it in soup with white beans and rosemary. Sausage is a good add also.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: chicgail

                        That would be my go-to outside of wedding soup. Orichiette, cannelin beans and sausage.

                        1. re: chicgail

                          Don't know about you, but I prick, boil, and brown the sausage before using it. But I agree that it makes a great soup with the "shcarole" and beans.

                          1. re: chicgail

                            Full recipe, please? As noted in my original post, I'd bought the escarole to make Italian Wedding soup and then did not, mainly because it was more work than I felt like that day -- especially because of the meatballs. An alternative soup that was less labor intensive would be great.

                            1. re: masha

                              I would take the recipe listed at italianfoodforever.com for your soup and just substitute sausage (I prefer sweet...hot is TOO hot) for the meatballs.

                              1. re: masha

                                2 tablespoons olive oil
                                2 ounces diced pancetta or prosciutto (you can use bacon if that’s what you have – or, if you prefer something vegetarian or vegan, skip this all together)
                                1/2 cup diced onion
                                4 cloves garlic, minced
                                2 oil-packed anchovy filets (not a problem to omit these if your soup is vegetarian)
                                1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves (rosemary is good also)
                                1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
                                1 head escarole, (about 1 pound) trimmed, washed, and coarsely chopped
                                Two 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
                                1 cup chopped canned whole tomatoes
                                5 cups homemade, canned or boxed chicken broth
                                1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
                                Freshly ground black pepper to taste

                                In a soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat, add the pancetta, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes.

                                Add the garlic, anchovy filets (don’t worry-they dissolve into the oil and DO NOT give the soup a fishy taste – only a distinct depth of flavor), thyme or rosemary, and pepper flakes; sauté for 3 minutes more. The garlic, onion, herbs and anchovy will give off a heavenly aroma at this point.

                                Add the escarole, stirring until wilted, about 2 minutes more. Add the beans, tomato, broth, and salt; bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the reserved pancetta and season with salt and pepper.

                                Serve drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and/or sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and a good crusty bread.

                                If I were going to use sausage, like njmarshall55, I would brown it first. and add it instead of the pancetta.

                                More here: http://foodbeest.com/2011/03/06/white...

                                1. re: chicgail

                                  Thank you. This looks great.