Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Escarole was new to me until I started making a minestrone soup based on Rachael Ray’s recipe for minestra – a cousin of minestrone. Her recipe uses escarole as the green.

When I first went looking for escarole in the market, it was only by matching each sign to a head of greens and using the power of deduction to figure out which one was escarole. When I got home, I compared what I bought to photos on the web, hoping I didn’t come home with a head of Boston lettuce.

Escarole (photo by ilovebutter/Flickr CC license)

Escarole
(photo by ilovebutter/Flickr CC license)

I think of escarole as a fluffy endive. Here’s Fine Cooking’s description:

“Escarole, a member of the chicory family, has wide, succulent stems and leaves that look more crumpled than curly. Like other chicories, it has a bitter flavor, though somewhat less so than curly endive. Though it can be eaten raw in salads, its hearty leaves benefit from cooking and is delicious with bacon, sausage, and added to white bean soups.”

When I came across this recipe from Saveur, I was eager to try escarole in a new way. I’m glad I did. Escarole’s flavor meshes well with prosciutto. Greens and pork – a classic combination.

I made a few changes based on comments to the Saveur recipe. Because I had a head of curly endive (or chicory) from our CSA, I used that as well, as the recipe suggested. But instead of boiling the greens, I steamed them in a covered pan using the water that remained on their leaves after washing, plus about 1/4 cup more.

I also simplified the recipe. I didn’t use the additional ham it suggested, only the prosciutto. I didn’t fry the prosciutto until crispy, instead I sautéed it. Since I was leaving it in longer, it would have time to cook further.

Instead of doing what the recipe does — sautéing an ingredient, removing it from the pan, wiping the pan dry and going on the next ingredient — I simply kept adding ingredients to those already in the pan. Doing it this way, I saved time (no removing ingredients and wiping the pan) and olive oil.

Escarole with Prosciutto recipe from Grabbing the Gusto

Escarole with Prosciutto

You’ll need a large deep pan with cover, colander and bowl.

  • 2 head of escarole and/or chicory, tough outer leaves discarded, washed, drained only slightly, and sliced in 2” sections crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto, sliced into strips
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

Add the hopefully still wet escarole to a large pan; steam, covered, until tender, about 3 minutes — your times might vary depending on your stove. Add more water while steaming if all the water evaporates and the escarole starts sticking too much to the pan. When done, drain escarole in a colander set over a bowl. Reserve the liquid in the bowl. Wipe pan dry.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in the same pan. Add prosciutto strips and cook, stirring, until they start to change color and crispen a bit. Add another tablespoon of olive oil, if needed, along with the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 30 seconds, or until the garlic begins to golden. Add the reserved cooking liquid and scrape up any browned bits in the pan. Add more water if you need it – you want to end up with a bit of a broth.

Add the escarole and cook until hot, 2–3 minutes. Add more water if your broth has evaporated too much. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the lemon juice.

Original recipe: Escarole with Prosciutto, Saveur

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