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.