Escarole

An ideal beginner’s chicory

By
January 2, 2013

I recently stumbled across a magazine article about dieting that asked, “What do you do when you’re so tired of salad you simply can’t eat any more vegetables?”

The question struck me as odd, because I’ve never been so tired of salad that I couldn’t eat any more vegetables. There are so many delicious combinations, so many wonderful varietals, and such a range of diverse tastes from season to season. I simply cannot fathom ever getting truly sick of them.

I can, however, fully sympathize with being tired of lettuce, and I understand that many people make the mistake of equating salad with lettuce.

Wintertime, in wet and cold climates, isn’t great for growing lettuce. But it is excellent for sweetening up sturdier greens, such as kale and chard. And then there are the chicories, the lettuces of winter.

Escarole is more vigorous than lettuce or spinach.

Escarole is an ideal beginner’s chicory. It’s not as polarizingly bitter as sugarloaf or as unruly as frisée, but it’s more vigorous than lettuce or spinach. And while I find escarole’s bitterness to be almost imperceptible, I hear from other, more sensitive tasters that soaking it in ice water further reduces this quality.

In my book, escarole is the ideal winter salad green. Not only is it absolutely delicious raw — nutty and clean, with a satisfying crunchy-soft texture — but its durability is perfect for parties and holiday meals, as its slight bitterness cuts the fat of rich roasts and braises.

You can slice or tear escarole ahead of time without it going brown on you, and it can even be dressed beforehand without getting soggy or slimy. The morning after Thanksgiving this year, I got up and wandered into the kitchen, where I found a friend digging in to a gigantic bowl of leftover escarole-and-hazelnut salad, still crisp and tasty after being dressed more than 12 hours earlier.

Escarole pairs well with creamy dressings, strong cheeses, anchovies, fruits, and nuts. This quality also makes it a great base for a salad meant to stand alone as a meal.

Escarole and Hazelnut Salad

You can, of course, also cook escarole, though with most winter vegetables requiring at least a short turn around a pan, I generally leap at the chance to eat something raw. It’s a common ingredient in Italian soups and stews, especially with white beans and ground meats. And, like all greens, it’s great sautéed with garlic and chiles.

Perhaps best of all, it’s tremendously forgiving to grow for home gardeners. I once planted escarole in a very shady back yard under an enormous and drippy rose bush. Even with my subsequent neglect, it thrived well into the winter, producing salads well into January.

You can harvest it all at once as a head, or snip off individual leaves to mix with mustards, baby kales, and radicchio for a fortifying winter salad mix.

And by the time escarole’s no longer thriving, springtime (and lettuce) is just around the corner.

Margarett Waterbury is an Oregon-based writer, editor, and employee at Gathering Together Farm.

Related recipe: Escarole and Hazelnut Salad

Subscribe
Comments
There are no comments on this item
Add a comment

Think before you type

Culinate welcomes comments that are on-topic, clean, and courteous. For the benefit of the community we reserve the right to delete comments that contain advertising, personal attacks, profanity, or which are thinly disguised attempts to promote another website.

Please enter your comment

Format: Bare URLs are automatically linked; use this style: [http://www.example.com "place text to be linked here"] for prettier links. You may specify *bold* or _italic_ text. No HTML please.

Please identify yourself

Not a member? Sign up!

Please prove that you’re not a computer


Advertisement
Our Table

The Joy of Cooking app

A new tool for the kitchen

The latest in our collection of cooking apps.

Subscribe
Graze: Bites from the Site
First Person

The secret sharer

A father’s legacy

The Culinate Interview

Mollie Katzen

The vegetarian-cooking pioneer

Reviews

Down South

Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more

Local Flavors

A winter romesco sauce

Good on everything

Most Popular Articles

Editor’s Choice