As the days get shorter and seasons shift, many cooks reach for cool-weather staples like potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. But we look to something lighter and brighter on the palate: escarole.
A member of the chicory family that includes endive and radicchio, escarole is native to Europe, where it has long been used to add flavor and heft to dishes such as Italian wedding soup. Today it’s eaten throughout the Mediterranean and the US in myriad preparations.
Like most leafy greens, escarole is a nutritional powerhouse: It provides an entire daily dose of vitamin A in just half a head, along with about eight grams of fiber and an ample helping of vitamin C and iron.
Escarole’s high water content and crisp crunch make for a refreshing bite in the season of slow-cooked, root-cellar food. When shopping for the bitter green, seek bunches with close-knit, bright green leaves; avoid any that are limp or browning. While almost identical in taste to radicchio, escarole is more delicate in texture and wilts more quickly than its cousin—most cooking methods used for curly kale will work with this veggie, too.
The tender inner white and light green leaves are best suited to raw preparations. Try them in a salad tossed with young, firm cheese and garlicky vinaigrette or add them to still-steaming soups just before serving. Reserve the bitter outer leaves for sautéing, braising, and baking. Wilted escarole makes a perky yet comforting side dish on its own, and it’s wonderful over pizza and flatbread (especially with a smear of fresh chèvre or ricotta) or in a warm panzanella salad topped with a salty, nutty grater like Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano.
|PREPARATION||DISH IDEA||CHEESE SUGGESTION||ALSO ADD|
|Raw||Salad||Feta||Fresh Orange Slices|
|Raw||Escarole cups||Gorgonzola||Fig preserves|
|Simmered||Soup||Ricotta salata||Parsnips, potatoes|
|Sautéed||Flatbread||Crème fraîche||Honey, eggs|
|Braised||Warm Salad||Pecorino||Garlic croutons, salami|