Watch my Escarole 101 HERE.
I grew up eating escarole.
Escarole and Beans were one of our families staple meals, so I’ve loved this green chicory for a long time.
But I am often surprised to hear how many people have never tried escarole, their reasons often the same, they simply don’t know what to do with it. And that my friends, is reason enough to walk right past it when you’re at the grocery store.
So here’s the 101 on Escarole (remember you can always watch the video HERE). And be sure to read (or scroll) to the end because there are some escarole recipes there to get you started.
Escarole looks a lot like a head of lettuce but really it’s a part of the chicory family, which also includes raddichio and endive. Chicories are very closely related to lettuce but they have a heartier texture and a bitter edge, so they have a little bite to them.
Escarole has slightly curly, green leaves that tend to be darker on the outside and more pale on the inside. And it can be eaten both raw or cooked.
The paler, crunchier more tender leaves towards the center (and the crunchy white inner ribs) are especially great for salads and the outermost dark green leaves, which are a little chewier, are best cooked. Braising, grilling and my personal favorite, sauteing are all great methods for cooking your escarole.
The flavor is slightly nutty, with a balance of bitter and sweet. The pale leaves towards the center are more tender and mild, while the darker outer leaves are more bitter.
Word on the street is that when blindfolded it is nearly impossible to distinguish the difference between escarole and radicchio. I haven’t tried this yet, but I plan to!
A 1-cup serving of escarole has only 17 calories and is packed with vitamins A, C, and K plus its rich in fiber, minerals and antioxidants and is said to be even more nutritious then spinach. But thats just splitting hairs, because at the end of the day, dark leafy greens are dark leafy greens and any and all ways we can find to work them into our diets is a very good thing.
Now when you are shopping for escarole you will notice that it ranges in size; some heads of escarole can be as small as a softball while others look a lot like a head of romaine lettuce. They will usually be wrapped up in an elastic band (or some kind of tie) and you want to look for firmly packed heads with bright vibrant color, the less brushing and discoloration the better.
Once you get your escarole home, keep it right in the plastic bag you get from the grocery store, make sure it’s wrapped tightly around the greens so there’s no air in there. Then you can store in right inside of your veggie drawer, in the fridge and it will last a good week (sometimes more).
When you’re ready to work with your escarole, the first thing you need to do is wash it really well. Escarole is know for being crazy dirty, it usually has soil and grit all throughout the leaves, so what I like to do is swish it around in some really cold water, drain and repeat until the leaves are clean. You can also, take it leaf by leaf and rinse them under some cold water.
Then give it a rough chop. If you plan to cook your escarole, don’t bother drying it, but if you plan to use it in a salad, give it a few turns in a salad spinner to pull off the excess moisture.
Now you’re ready to eat it…
Because escarole has a hearty texture and slightly bitter flavor, it pairs well with lots of different ingredients; garlic, onion, lemon, vinegars, apples, nuts, and dried fruits are all great examples of ingredients you can pair with your escarole.
One of my favorite ways to use escarole is in this simple salad:
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp. diced red onion
Whisk it together and toss with 4-cups of cleaned and cut escarole. Top with 2 tbsp. chopped toasted pecans and 3 chopped dried apricots. Enjoy!
Here are a few more recipes from around the web to get you excited about escarole:
- Braised Escarole and Onions from NomNomPaleo
- Lemony Egg Soup with Escarole from NYTimes (this is next on my list to make!)
- Sauteed Escarole with Toasted Pinenuts from Kalyn’s Kitchen
- Simple Escarole Salad from RachelRay
- Escarole Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette and Hard Boiled Eggs from (CookThink)
Now go off and get yourself some escarole! And remember, to come on down to the comments below and let me know you’re favorite ways to make it.