Escarole Salad with Roasted Broccoli, Pomegranate Seeds and Avocado

Escarole is a slightly bitter winter lettuce that partners well with other strong flavors—roasted broccoli, tangy pomegranate seeds and a mustardy vinaigrette, for starters.  We’ve added lots of pistachio nuts for crunch and a touch of aged Parmesan for flourish.  If you can’t find escarole substitute one of its cousins such as frisée or endive.  Peppery arugula would be lovely as well.  Cauliflower or Romanesco would be a nice addition if you don’t have broccoli on hand.

The colors make this dish a natural choice for a winter holiday table.

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Braised Escarole with Raisins, Currants and Pinenuts

The inspiration for this comes from an authentic regional Italian dish featured in the Bocca Cookbook (Bocca is a hip Italian restaurant in London).  The original instructions called for stuffing a head of escarole with garlic, raisins and anchovies, trussing the leaves together with kitchen twine and braising the veggie package in liquid.

Our version is ultra-quick by comparison. The greens are cut into pieces and everything is thrown in the pan together, without any fussy lacing.  We’ve omitted the anchovies (toss in a few if you like them) and added olives instead.  We call for a mix of currants and golden raisins, since that’s what our pantry offered us, but you could easily substitute what you have on hand—even chopped prunes would be nice.

Braising involves first browning ingredients in a hot pan to create wonderful caramelized bits; adding liquid; then simmering it off, to create an ultra-soft product, infused with flavor.  Cooking the bitter greens, garlic, dried fruit and pine nuts together results in a slightly sweet sauce that elevates this dish from the everyday.  It’s ready for a special occasion, though simple enough to patch together on the fly.

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Escarole Soup with White Beans

An entire head of curly-leaved escarole goes into this pot.  The slightly bitter flavor of these winter-loving greens compliments creamy Italian beans.  If you have a hard Parmesan rind left after the cheese has been grated away, don’t toss it out, throw it into the pot.  It’s an old trick that add lots of deep flavor.  Be sure to fish it out before serving though, or someone will receive a gooey surprise.

If you cook your own beans rather than using canned, save the cooking liquid and substitute some for the broth.

Freeze leftover soup in plastic containers for a quick dinner or lunchbox choice.

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