Because That’s How I Escarole

Looks like lettuce...

Do you know from escarole? Despite my self-proclaimed status as a “foodie,” it was only this last winter that I discovered escarole. Picked up a head on a whim, which turned out to be one of the smartest whims I’ve ever had (which, frankly, isn’t saying much, as most of my whims end disastrously–being wiretapped by the USMC, for example. Or stranded at a train station, 60 miles from my ultimate destination, with three pillows, a large comforter and only $40 to my name).

I’ve heard that you can enjoy escarole raw–and, indeed, it looks much more like lettuce than any of my standard green leafies–but the way I prepare it is just so darn good that I can’t bring myself to deviate. I’m stuck in a bit of an escarole rut, but what a yummy rut it is.

I think my only qualm with escarole is that is morphs from that nice, vibrant, healthful-looking green to a sort of military drab color (although that might be my lingering fear of the Marines speaking). I mean, this ain’t pretty:

...cooks like: greens, leafy, standard issue

but, like a lover who is only moderately attractive but who has other virtues, I’ve learned to love the way it looks, because I love the way it tastes. Wait, that doesn’t sound quite right…

Braised Escarole with White Beans

1 head escarole, cleaned and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
splash EVOO
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 ½ to 2 cups cooked great northern, navy or butter beans
juice of one medium lemon
good dry Italian cheese—parmesan, asiago, romano, etc.

Heat the olive oil, red pepper flakes and garlic together in a large, shallow pan. When the garlic is fragrant, but before it browns, add the chopped escarole—it’s OK if it’s still very wet from having been washed. Toss to coat with the oil, then add the stock. Stir, bring to a bare simmer. Cook for a few minutes, tossing occasionally, until the escarole is wilted down. Add the beans, then cover.

Cook until the escarole is tender, 15-20 minutes. If you like, you may uncover to evaporate some of the liquid. Remove from heat. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and a sprinkling of the cheese.

Serve in a wide soup bowl, preferably with crusty bread. You could also certainly add some small pasta shapes to this—orzo would be nice, or tiny shells.



5 thoughts on “Because That’s How I Escarole

  1. I, too, have been known to escarole with my homies. Bittman has a very good riff on the white bean and escarole idea–it’s a soup, so rather unappetizing this time of year, but also delicious.

    Am new loyal fan.

    • I don’t know, I’m the kind of weirdo who makes beef stew in August and baked Alaska in January, if the mood strikes. People complain about “heating up the kitchen” by turning on the oven in the summer, but I think, “The kitchen’s already hot, what does another 500° matter? In for a penny, in for a pound…” That said, I have some issues with Bittman. A lot of his so-called minimalist recipes are just, well, not. But I am drawn to him nevertheless. Come to think of it, I have this kind of push-pull with a lot of celebrity chefs–Nigella, Paula, Emeril, Rachael. Not Sandra Lee, though (not that she’s a “chef” by any stretch, but)–I would happily push her off a cliff.

  2. baked alaska is my favorite thing. and also pavlova. do you see a theme?
    and now, to the “tune” of colors – crullers, crullers. i am a donut walking, a jelly filled stalkin’… and then something about when my sprinkles scatter, crullers crullers…

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