Personally, I love escarole. I cannot understand the often-utilized description of this green vegetable as “bitter”. I remember eating it many times in childhood dinners and thought it tasted sweet. We’ll refer to its flavor as “pleasant bitterness” and leave it at that.
What Is Escarole?
The vegetable in question is a member of the chicory family and can be identified by its wide green leaf with slightly jagged edges. Look for it in the produce department along with the kale and lettuce. Pick it up, throw it in your cart, and give it a try.
As you probably have guessed by now, the Sicilians have multiple methods of cooking it. Let’s explore this nutritious vegetable and discover what makes it so popular.
Much Nutrition, Few Calories
Every two cups of raw escarole have only 15 calories and 0 fat, and it is pretty filling. Its important nutrients are:
- Fiber – helps the digestive system.
- Folate – supports metabolism and red and white blood cells.
- Copper – supports bones, connective tissue, and red blood cell formation.
- Vitamin A – reduces the risk of cancer and osteoporosis.
- Vitamin K – helps in blood clotting,
Important: People taking blood thinners should limit the amount of escarole they consume because Vitamin K does not interact well with blood thinners.
Additionally, escarole helps retard inflammation, boost eye health, and promote digestive well-being.
Choice and Preparation
Choose the vegetable on the basis of its green leaves and crisp-looking exterior. No blemishes or yellow spots should be visible on the bunch. Leaves must be firm.
If you are not using it immediately, wash it and wrap it in damp paper towels. It will last for about 4 days in the fridge.
To begin its preparation, cut off the bottom, and get rid of the outside leaves. Most importantly, wash it thoroughly. I actually take it apart leaf by leaf to wash it. Some chefs find it easier to cut it up before immersing in water. Take your pick.
Put it in a large pot of water to soak. Examine the water carefully to check for grit. Actually, I soak it twice and recommend doing that. Many sources tell us to keep the outside leaves, but frankly, I find them really bitter so I toss them.
There are so many appetizing ideas for escarole.
You can chop it and use it with salad ingredients. It holds up well with any kind of dressing be it warm or cold.
Use a leaf or two as a bed for some meat for presentation. Sometimes it is a good idea to substitute a leaf of escarole for bread for a wrap. it has a great crunch factor.
For a salad, pair with bacon, apples, toasted pecans, dates, and avocado cream-based dressings.
For soups or stews, combine sausage and white beans with the escarole.
Here are other ways you can prepare it: sauté, braise, stir-fry, and add to stew or soup. Spread blue, feta, or pecorino cheeses over a sauté.
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Sauteed Escarole with White Beans and Bacon
- 1 head escarole washed very well
- 2 - 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste
- 3 cloves garlic chopped roughly
- 1 ½ - 2 cups white beans cooked
- 3 slices bacon well-cooked
- ½ cup black olives sliced and pitted
- 1 pinch red pepper
- Cut the bottom off, and wash the vegetable well. Remove outer leaves and set aside.
- Cover the bottom of a shallow pan with olive oil and heat to medium.
- Add the escarole and some salt to the pan, and coat the leaves with the olive oil.
- Cover the pan and cook until escarole is somewhat wilted and brown in spots. (15 minutes)
- Add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic starts looking yellow and the escarole is soft.
- Stir in the bacon and add the olives. Cook until warmed through.
In A Salad
Salads have a bad reputation because they are associated with dieting. What can be in an interesting salad?
Warm Shrimp and Escarole Salad
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. drained capers chopped
- 1 1/4 lb. large shrimp peeled, deveined
- 1 head of escarole torn into large pieces (about 10 cups)
- 3 tbsp. finely grated Romano
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add garlic and capers; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant but not brown, about 1 minute.
- Increase heat to medium-high.
- Add shrimp; cook, tossing occasionally, until just cooked through, about 4 minutes.
- Add half of escarole and toss until it begins to wilt, about 1 minute.
- Add remaining escarole and toss until wilted, about 1 minute more. Remove from heat.
- Add Romano and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper; toss to combine.
In a Frittata
This recipe blends many flavors to create a delicious meal.
Escarole and Mushroom Frittata
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion diced
- 1 1/2 pounds escarole washed well and coarsely chopped
- 16 large eggs beaten
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 4 strips of bacon well-cooked and broken up
- Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large ovenproof nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil.
- Add the onion, and cook over moderately high heat until golden brown, 10 minutes.
- Add the greens and cook until wilted.
- Season the eggs with salt and pepper, and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.
- Pour the eggs into the skillet and cook over moderate heat until the bottom and sides begin to set.
- Lift the sides of the frittata to allow the uncooked eggs to seep under.
- Continue cooking until the bottom is set and the top is still runny, 3 minutes.
- Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven, and bake for about 8 minutes, until the center of the frittata is set.
- Slide the frittata onto a cutting board. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
These recipes bring back so many memories of the childhood kitchen I knew so well. As the years go on, I have shuffled some ingredients to make the recipes uniquely mine.
I hope you enjoy cooking and eating them as much as I love cooking them.