a recipe for delicious living
(April 12, 2007)
...submit your question to Lauren!
Mike asked Lauren:
Dear Lauren, The other day I bought what I thought was lettuce for a salad. But,
when we ate the greens, they were really tough. I'm not sure if it was lettuce
or something else that I've never seen before. I read your column religiously,
so I thought you could help. Thanks.
Oh, it must be escarole, which looks just like a squatty head of romaine lettuce,
but it's tough and not suitable for a raw leafy salad. It's delicious, though, and a
perfect choice when wanting to serve a braised green without the inherent bitterness in
vegetables like broccoli rabe and kale, etc.
All you do is cut off the bottom base of the head of escarole and separate the leaves.
Rinse the leaves well, then stack and cut them into 1-inch slices. Spin dry. Store the
leaves this way in a large freezer bag lined with paper towels, in the refrigerator
until ready to cook (can be done a few days ahead).
When ready to cook, all you do is heat a shallow layer of extra-virgin olive oil in
a deep-sided skillet and, when the oil is hot but not smoking, carefully add the
cut greens, using tongs to turn them as they wilt a bit in the hot oil. Add some hot
red pepper flakes, for some spunk and several minced cloves of garlic. Pour in a healthy
layer of some flavorful stock, preferably homemade (vegetable or chicken), just
enough to cover the bottom of the skillet with ½- to 1-inch of liquid; then cover the pot. When you see steam escaping, reduce the heat to low and simmer the escarole until tender but not mushy, about 8 minutes. Uncover, add salt and pepper to taste and, if desired, a knob of softened butter. Serve hot, allowing some of the surrounding broth to accompany the greens.
Here's a formal recipe for Braised Escarole, but feel
free to use the recipe for
Rabe served over rigatoni, substituting escarole for the broccoli
Yield: served 6
Although escarole looks very much like a head of lettuce to use in
your salad, it's tougher and really should be braised to be fully enjoyed. Available
year-round, this vegetable is, like most leafy greens, incredibly healthy and
deserves a lot more attention when shoppers are in the market searching for
something delicious to serve as a side dish with dinner. Also, escarole, when
served in the way featured in the following recipe, would be perfect served over
hot pasta, making it a more substantial main dish. Any time I've suggested a tool,
a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that's unfamiliar to you, you can go to
to get more information.
- 12-inch, deep-sided skillet with a lid
- 2 large bunches heads escarole
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or use low-sodium canned or boxed broth)
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons softened butter, optional
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, optional
- Kosher salt or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1) To set up: Slice off the bottom base
of both heads of escarole and rinse each leaf well. Stack the leaves and
slice them into 1-inch slices. Spin dry. Bring stock to a boil in a small
saucepan and concentrate the flavor by reducing (uncovered) to 2 cups.
2) To sear and simmer the escarole: Heat a 12-inch, deep-sided
skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and, when hot, add greens. Use
tongs to turn the leaves in the hot oil and, when just beginning to wilt,
stir in the crushed pepper flakes, if using, and the garlic. Add the broth
and cover the pot. Bring the broth to a boil and, when you see steam escaping,
turn the heat down to low. Cook the escarole until tender but not mushy,
6 to 8 minutes, occasionally lifting the lid and redistributing the leaves.
3) To serve: Uncover the pot and season to taste with
salt and pepper. Put individual portions of the cooked greens in bowls
along with some of the hot broth. Serve immediately, passing grated or
shaved parmesan at the table, if desired, along with a peppermill that
Timing is Everything
- Escarole leaves are very sturdy and can be cleaned, cut and spun dry several days ahead. Keep them in the refrigerator, in a large freezer bag, wrapped in paper towel.
- The garlic can be peeled ahead and kept in a jar, in the refrigerator. It can also be minced early in the day and kept well covered and chilled until ready to cook.
- The stock can and should be made well ahead and kept frozen in tubs of different sizes.
Questions for Lauren Groveman's Kitchen:
Lauren Groveman recipes have been featured
in many national magazines and local newspapers. Her books "The
I love to Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking for Family and Friends"
and "Lauren Groveman's Kitchen, Nurturing Food
for Family and Friends" are available through
For in depth information on Lauren Groveman as a writer, teacher, TV &
radio host, as well as her recipes and cooking tips visit her website at
Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and
blessed with three wonderful children.