Escarole is a vegetable that many Italians are familiar with but because I am so fond of it, I wanted to feature it on this New Food Friday for the folks who haven’t tried it. I’m always having to explain what it is to the supermarket cashiers when I buy it!
In fact, the cashiers think it’s lettuce. I tell them it’s escarole and they can never find it in their computer. I go through the same conversation with them every time! But I don’t care as long as they keep stocking escarole.
One of the first things I’d like to mention about this vegetable is that it’s beautiful to look at! I’m not kidding. A head of escarole is a thing of beauty like a bouquet of flowers. Some say to stop and smell the roses. I say, stop and admire the escarole.
It is beautiful enough to be thrown by a bride at a wedding except that you can eat the escarole bouquet!
The second thing I like about escarole is that you can eat it uncooked in a salad, or if you prefer, you can cook it and serve it hot. How many vegetables can you say that about? Ok, carrots. Sure, celery. Yes, bell peppers. OK, never mind. Forget I asked. Here I’ve torn it into pieces.
I like to put it raw in a sandwich and use it just like lettuce.
I never see anyone else buying escarole. I think they must order it just for me. Sometimes they get heads that are so big I can hardly fit them in the plastic bag! (The escarole, not the supermarket people.) These are grown locally and boy, they must have a good strain of them because they are delicious besides being beautiful. Escarole is also reasonably priced: $1.99 a pound. Wow! I just realized it’s gone up in price. But then, what hasn’t!
The only down side is that sometimes it is sandy. I usually leave it in the plastic bag that I stuffed it in at the store and run the kitchen cold tap water in it a few times and rinse the worst of it out. Then I put it in my Tupperware-like large green plastic bowl (see photo below) and fill that with water a few times and drain it. That usually takes care of all the sand and dirt.
Escarole is a slightly bitter green but when you cook it or braise it, it loses it’s bitterness and develops a sweetness. Lately, I’ve been steaming it in a large frying pan with a few tablespoons of water. (Of course I chop up a garlic clove, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and a few flakes of red pepper to the pan.) This cooks covered for about 20 minutes or until the leaves are tender. Then I remove the cover, continue cooking it, and let most of the water evaporate.
If some of the leaves get slightly browned, that A-OK to me! Don’t forget to add salt to taste. I serve it with chicken, or a pasta dish. It goes well with most meat dishes.
However, I love escarole so much that I have been known to stuff it inside a piece of Italian or French bread and enjoy a nice cooked “green” sandwich for lunch! A seeded roll will work equally as well. In a pinch I will also put it on rye bread.
Another thing about escarole is that many people chop it and add it to soups, like the well-known Italian Wedding Soup.
Escarole is closely related to chicory, radicchio and Belgian endive. It is very low in Cholesterol and a good source of Vitamin E, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a great source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Zinc, Copper and Manganese.
I can’t promise that someone will propose to you and you will get married if you eat escarole, but who knows?