What do you do with escarole?

This week brought more greens from our CSA.  Amazingly, there were no repeats from last week, although many of the items were similar:  bibb lettuce instead of romaine and red leaf, Napa cabbage instead of bok choy, Swiss chard instead of spinach, escarole instead of chicory, and cilantro and collard greeens, both of which are not remotely replacements for the pea tendrils we got last week.

Escarole is related to chicory but the with big, broad leaves, more like bok choy.  It’s much less bitter than chicory, however.  Cookbooks suggested it as a salad green, but, while the stems are pleasantly crisp, the leaves are not.  They’re thicker, and have a sort of leathery quality, much like dandelion greens, although not nearly as bitter.  Escarole seems most often to be a soup green, but summer is the wrong time for soup.  If we freeze the other bunch, I’ll make soup with it in the winter.

I think of escarole as being an Italian food, or at least having an affinity for them.  I tried sauteeing it with garlic, olive oil, and  crushed red pepper flakes, then sprinkling with parmesan cheese, the way I would for chicory or broccoli rabe.  The escarole just tasted mild to the point of blandness.  The texture was lovely, though, with wilted greens and stems still a bit crunchy.  So I played around, adding some red wine vinegar, oregano, basil, and salt.  It works.  My seasonings were essentially an Italian vinaigrette:  olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and parmesan, so I can now say that escarole makes a lovely cooked salad.  To make a meal, add cannelini or mozzarella and serve over pasta or rice.

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5 Responses to “What do you do with escarole?”

  1. mangochild Says:

    I use escarole much as I use kale and chard. It is sturdier than spinach I find, and stands up better to cooking. Your method is similar to my go-to method. I made soups with a mixture of kale, escarole, and collard greens and then froze it for the winter months. Very tasty, especially the way that the different greens play off each other.

  2. Sophie Says:

    I envy your being able to find escarole. I am Italian and I do believe you are correct: it is Italian food! As a child, we had escarole and bean soup on Fridays (we were meatless on Fridays in those days). Since I haven’t had much luck getting escarole, I’ve tried recasting the recipe with kale and arugula. Not quite the same.

    Try: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/escarole-and-bean-soup-recipe/index.html

    Also try searching under recipes called Tuscan white bean soup.

  3. vegyear Says:

    Sophie and MangoChild, thanks for the great ideas! This will be our 8th season with the same CSA, and it’s the first time we’ve gotten escarole.

  4. Ann Says:

    We love escarole, we have a recipe here we call Utica greens(NY)
    boil your greens with a little salt, make alot because they cook down. Drain and squeeze the water out. meanwhile in a large frying pan cut up cherry peppers(hot ot sweet), garlic, salami to heat up in some oil. Throw in the greens with a cup of seasoned bread crumbs and a cup of parm. cheese, salt and pepper. Mix all together, if they seem a little dry just add a little chicken stock. Eat as is or put in oven dish and cover with moz cheese. Bake until cheese is melted. You won’t eat them any other way!!

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