Saturday, June 28, 2014

Escarole 101

Escarole is part of the Chicory family that also includes Endive, Curly Endive (Frisee) and Radicchio. Chicories are closely related to lettuces, but heartier and with a bitter edge. Escarole has broad, slightly curly, pale green leaves with a nutty, bitter taste. The fleshy, dark, outer leaves are more bitter than the lighter, inner leaves. Escarole has a crunchy, crisp texture and holds its shape when cooked. Escarole has been widely cultivated in England from at least the 1500s and is a popular green in Sicilian cuisine. It is available year round and peak seasons are spring through summer.  Click here to learn more about Escarole.

Some say Escarole is hard to distinguish between its trendier, more expensive, red-tinted cousin, Radicchio. Try for yourself. Close your eyes and see if you can tell them apart. Or listen to this podcast on Bitter Greens where the hosts conduct their own challenge and also discuss other greens.  

To Store

Escarole (unwashed) stores well in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.

To Nourish

Escarole is high in Folate, Vitamins A, C, and K, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Thiamin, and Riboflavin; it tops Spinach! Click here to learn more about the health benefits of Escarole.

To Prepare

Escarole is mildly bitter and adds texture to both cooked and raw dishes. Delicious and crisp when eaten fresh, this bitter green is also excellent when braised, wilted, grilled or cooked in soups. (Always be sure to give the leaves a thorough washing.) One medium head of Escarole yields about seven cups of torn leaves.

To Try 

Grilling season is upon us so fire up your grill for some charred escarole.  
Escarole Salad with Apple, Blue Cheese and Pecans 
Escarole and Bean Soup (slower)
Escarole and Little Meatball Soup or Italian Wedding Soup 
Penne with Sausage & Escarole 
Salmon Escarole Packets with Lemon Tarragon Butter 
Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Escarole

To Use

Oil-based salad dressings will only adhere to greens that are perfectly dry – and OXO Salad Spinner makes child's play of drying them. The spinner basket doubles as a colander for rinsing green, clear bowl can be used as a salad bowl, and all parts are dishwasher safe. ($25-$30, Williams-Sonoma)