Escarole!

There was a huge bag of escarole in my box this week, but I wasn’t exactly sure which bag it was. Last time there was an unusual item, there was a note in the newsletter to help us all figure out which thing was which. It’s new to me, but maybe escarole is more prosaic than I realized, because this time there was no hint. I did take a test nibble of raw leaves to check which of the greens was most bitter, but I still consulted a Google image search just to make sure I wasn’t about to cook up a big bag of lettuce, which, in contrast to every other bitter green I’ve cooked, is exactly what escarole looks like. (And oh, how the lettuce still plagues me. What will I do with it all?)

See how much I look like lettuce?
Photo from Potomac Vegetable Farms

(See how much I look like lettuce?)

So, after consulting my field guide, I finally felt confident enough to cook up the escarole. I love bitter greens, so I was really looking forward to my escarole, but with no expectation of how it might taste once cooked. I sauteed it with my radish greens in olive oil and then sat down to put the first bite in my mouth.

Oh. My. God. It tastes. Like. Italy.

Apparently, according to my taste buds and the nostalgic, eye-rolling ecstasy that was immediately induced, I ate a lot of escarole when my mom and I were eating our way across Venice a few years ago. There, during a miserably rainy March, I ate mountains of radicchio and every other bitter leaf I could get my hands on, reveling in this, my favorite flavor, generally ignored here in the states or reduced to a pathetic accent note that does nothing to satisfy my cravings. I’d either forgotten or had never realized that a lot of what I was eating – in pasta, on pizzas, or alone on heaping platters as a contorni – was in fact escarole. Until I magically cooked it, on this magic night, in this magic, stumbled-upon fashion, and managed to recreate perfectly Venice in my mouth. (It didn’t hurt that I coincidentally made porcini mushroom risotto last night as well, using my final onion and the last of the dried porcinis I brought back from Venice.)

Here, preserved for posterity, is how I prepared the escarole and radish greens:

“Venice in Your Mouth” Escarole

1 large bag escarole, washed thoroughly and chopped into 1 1/2 inch strips
2 or 3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. Earth Balance (or butter)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
A sprinkle of red pepper flakes
1 t. sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter together in a wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic begins to brown. Pile on the greens, tossing and stirring until they begin to deflate. Sprinkle the sugar, salt, and pepper. Continue to cook, tossing and stirring as needed, until the greens are cooked through. (20 minutes? I did it by feel, so I’m not sure…)

Incidentally, I don’t think I’ll be cooking radish greens again. Perhaps I didn’t cook them long enough, but they still had that prickly texture that so frightened me in the raw turnip greens. Not pleasant on the tongue! Above and beyond that, I had an allergic reaction to something in this meal, and, since I’ve eaten all the other parts of it many times, instinct tells me the radish greens are the culprit behind the rampant itchiness. Too bad, I was really digging the no-waste principal of it all, but I guess next time they will just have to spice up my compost bucket.

20 comments on “Escarole!

  1. Heather says:

    Venice in your mouth. Really sounds a bit dirty. But there’s an ecstasy in imagining eating this with you. I share your love of the bitter greens. I mostly just eat tons of arugula and kale, but I perhaps need to mix it up a bit more. CSA would help, but so far I haven’t found anything that meets my needs out here in MI.

    miss you! xo

  2. scrumptious says:

    Oh yes, yum. I am eating kale right now. But it doesn’t have the silky, refined bitterness of the endive family – escarole, chicory, radicchio, and friends.

    I wish there was a suitable box for you!

    And about the dirtiness… This whole blog is just lightly tinged with a dash of outre. (See title for example.) It’s not intentional, I swear. Just how it comes out!

  3. Jenny says:

    Ah–another bitter-greens lover. Wonderful! Spread the love…

    I like the idea of using radish greens, as well–

  4. Jenny says:

    oops, just reread and saw the issues with radish greens. i wonder if they would benefit from a quick blanching prior to being sauteed? i have no idea, as i’ve never tried cooking radish greens. turnips and beet greens (ugh to beet greens on my end)

  5. scrumptious says:

    Jenny – Yes, it’s always so great to find a fellow bitter-green lover. We must convert our culture, one radicchio head at a time.

    I will be curious to hear how your radish green experiments go, if you end up trying them. Since I had what I think was an allergic reaction to them, I won’t be trying them again.

    Please consider turnip and beet greens! The beet greens are just like chard, and the turnip greens are delicious in their own unique way (and this from a newly self-discovered turnip hater!). If you are apprehensive about them, try them first mixed with other greens you know you like. That’s what I did and worked my way up to using them alone.

    I’ve taken a quick look at your site and it looks like something I will enjoy exploring more when I have time!

  6. Ari says:

    Just a note: You sauteed it. You didn’t braise it. Otherwise, good article.

    • scrumptious says:

      Ari – you’re very right. I wrote this post during a period when I was very confused about braising. I still haven’t managed to successfully braise greens – I mean, I understand what the technique entails now, but it never seems to turn out very yummy. I usually just sautee my “braising greens” now!

  7. Angie says:

    You almost had a braise. All you’d have needed was about 1/2 cup of liquid (stock, a bit of white wine/vermouth, even water) and a lid for your wok. Add liquid once greens are well coated in fat, bring to a simmer, cover, and leave it alone for 7-10 minutes. Check and stir, recover if necessary, rinse, lather, repeat, you get the idea. Reduce the juices at the end as desired.
    I like your blog–aesthetically appealing and reads quite well!

    • scrumptious says:

      Thanks for the braising idea and I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog! I removed the erroneous word “braise” from the recipe title – I guess I just don’t see the need to braise when it is the most perfect-tasting escarole in the world! Like I told the earlier commenter, braising just never ends up with a satisfying result for me.

  8. [...] if you want to do it with an Italian flair). I think I’m going to give this recipe for “Venice in Your Mouth Escarole”. The same blog has a recipe for chard and walnuts which is very simple and sounds yummy. I’m [...]

  9. pw says:

    Reading your escarole recipe made me a) hungry, and b)homesick, and I’m with you on avoiding radish greens. I eat a lot of veggies of all kinds and tend to prefer them “au point” or just on the crunchy side of cooked. And this kitchen never, ever, runs out of fresh organic garlic. Thanks for the reminder about escarole. Tonight or tomorrow at the latest!

  10. Molly says:

    I LOVE your blog. I just joined a CSA for this season of 2010 and randomly picked up some escarole at the market today. I was searching for a recipe similar to a meal I had at this vegetarian bistro in Manhattan once and stumbled upon your site. The escarole was amazing, so thank you! I will definitely be reading more of this blog. take care!

    • scrumptious says:

      Molly, I am so glad you enjoyed the escarole! It’s my favorite escarole recipe, hands-down. Enjoy your CSA! I look forward to hearing more about what you do with the veggies that come in your box!

  11. Jim says:

    You should saute the beet greens the same way, they are great.I see the beets without the tops at the farmers market and I say where’s the greens, that’s the best part.

    • scrumptious says:

      Jim, that is a great idea! I love beet greens and always throw them in to whatever greens I’m cooking when I have them on hand, but I’ve never used them in this recipe. I will definitely try that out as it sounds delicious!

  12. Aldo says:

    I found this blog by accident but I thought I would share that my family eats escarole about 4 times oer week but mostly raw as a salad. I grew up eating it sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and a couple of chile peppers seasoned with salt, and also raw in salad which is still my favourite and it’s great for you and full of vitamins and fibre.
    Rip it into bite size pieces, add two or three smashed garlic cloves whole for removing to the salad bowl, add great quality extra virgin olive oil and salt and toss well and enjoy with great bread!! mmmm!

  13. [...] so delicious in their own right. The radishes came with lots of lovely greens, but I’ve had not so good experiences with them in the past, so they go straight into the [...]

  14. Tracy Baker says:

    This is so much fun. I know nothing about the taste or the prep for eating greens of any kind….but I oh so want to get healthy and start. I love the fact that this is an Italian style of eating escarole, because I have an Italian heritage. Yeah for the Italians….they sure do know how to cook.

    Thanks for teaching me how to eat as a good italian!

  15. cade says:

    I hate vegetables,YUCK!

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