What is Escarole? How is it used?

Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors

Introduction

Escarole is a type of lettuce with curly leaves and dark green color. It can be found in most grocery stores, but it's often not labeled as such. This article will go over all the benefits of escarole, including how to cook it yourself!

Watch this video on escarole!

What is escarole?

Escarole is a leafy green vegetable in the chicory family. It has an elongated head and looks similar to Swiss chard when cooked. The leaves are either pale or deep purple on their underside, with the veins running horizontally. The curly endive leaves are typically used in salads (with pine nuts!), soups and stews. In France it is also often served braised with garlic or sauteed as a side dish (possibly with cannellini beans or white beans).

Escarole has been popularized by Jamie Oliver who adds escarole to his pasta dishes when he needs more vegetables because "it's got that nice flavour but isn't quite as robust as kale". The vegetable is at its best from November through March, after which it becomes too tough and bitter.

Escarole is high in Vitamin A and folic acid. It also contains iron, manganese and phosphorus.

This vegetable was eaten by the ancient Greeks who called it "akratisto". The name comes from the Greek words for to draw out or exhaust (ex) and downy hair (kratein). This may refer to its reputation for being less nourishing than other greens but more delicious. In Italian escarole is known as 'scarola' which translates literally to artichoke leaf - another reference to this plant's history with Romans.

The best season for escarole is from November to March.

How to cook with escarole?

Escarole is a leafy green vegetable that can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked. Cooked escarole has long been used as one of the main ingredients for Italian dishes like soup and pasta sauce. It also features prominently on many Mediterranean menus, especially grape leaves wrapped around rice with other vegetables such as onion and garlic.

If you're cooking raw escarole, add it to your dish towards the end of the recipe so it doesn't overcook into mush; this vegetable only cooks up nicely when lightly boiled for short periods of time. The natural bitter flavor will come out if you cook it too much! Try experimenting with some recipes: try roasting an entire head from start to finish until slightly browned (about 15 minutes), or blanch the green leaves and serve as a side dish.

How to store and chop escarole?

Store in an airtight container with a damp paper towel to keep it from drying out. Wash and chop the leaves for salad just before serving, as they will turn brown quickly once exposed to the air.

Recipes with escarole

Escarole is used in a variety of recipes, including salads and soups (Italian Wedding Soup!). It pairs well with other winter vegetables like cabbage and kale to make hearty stews or braised dishes. Escarole can be eaten raw as part of a salad mix or grilled on its own.

In Italian cuisine, escarole often appears as an ingredient in Milanese risotto (risotto alla milanese). The vegetable's crisp texture contrasts well with the soft rice grains while adding some bitterness that balances out the dish's richness.

Grilled escarole goes well with hard cheeses such as cheddar for sandwiches; it also adds flavor to meatballs or stuffed pasta shells when mixed into the stuffing.

Escarole soup is a traditional Italian dish that combines escarole with other greens such as spinach or nettles. The vegetables are first fried in olive oil, then simmered with stock for about 30 minutes to make a flavorful broth. This variety of soup can be served either hot or cold and pairs well with crusty bread.

Escarole and Chickpea Salad

Ingredients

  • One head of escarole, chopped
  • Two tablespoons olive oil
  • Three cloves garlic, minced and divided use
  • Two cans chickpeas (drained)
  • Half a lemon juiced or to taste. salt and black pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper optional for spice
  • One tablespoon honey if desired - some people find it makes the dish sweeter

 

Directions

  1. Chop up your escarole into pieces that are about an inch wide and two inches long so they can fit in a large pot or bowl or plate easily when tossed.
  2. Add all ingredients except three teaspoons of cooked pasta water; mix well with spoon until combined thoroughly.
  3. Taste dressing before serving and adjust seasoning as needed. If you like more of a sweet-sour taste to your salad, then add one tablespoon of honey.

Escarole pairs well with chickpeas and pasta; it is also used in soup recipes or stuffed as an ingredient for dishes like lasagna. Clean escarole thoroughly before using by removing the outer heavy leaves from the head so you are able to get at the white inner leaves that can be eaten raw or cooked. Boil until tender about five minutes if not already boiled. You may use escarole in place of spinach when making homemade pizza dough. Escarole has twice as much calcium per serving than green leafy vegetables and three times more fiber than other types of lettuce.

Raw nori makes for a great substitute for escarole in recipes like lasagna, too.

If you are not a fan of the strong bitter taste that can be found in escarole, try adding more lemon juice or salt to your recipe and cutting back on olive oil.

Escarole has been suggested to have some incredible health benefits for those who eat it regularly such as having vitamins A, C; potassium; magnesium; calcium; iron and fiber! It is also very low in calories which makes it perfect when trying to cut down on weight without giving up nutrients.

It may seem like a simple green vegetable with no special features but what people do not realise about this food is how healthy it really is. So next time you are in the produce section of your grocery store, remember to take a look at this vegetable for its incredible health benefits.

 

Greens with Garlic, Lemon & Croutons

Crunchy croutons and garlic add zesty flavor to this simple salad, which can be served as a side dish or made heartier with the addition of cheese. The lemon juice brightens up any leafy greens like romaine lettuce (or even escarole).

 

Ingredients

  • One head escarole, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • Two tablespoons olive oil
  • Three cloves garlic, minced and divided use
  • One lemon
  • Handful of croutons
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat
  2. Add half of minced garlic cloves, salt and black pepper then stir until fragrant (about one minute)
  3. Throw in chopped escarole; cook until wilted but still has some crunchiness left about three minutes
  4. Add remaining garlic, lemon juice, croutons and toss together with spoon. Serve hot or chilled depending on how you prefer.

Mushroom Risotto with Escarole

This recipe is for a more hearty meal, but you can omit the cheese and bacon to make it vegan. Escarole adds extra flavor as well as fiber to this dish.

 

Ingredients

  • Two tablespoons olive oil
  • Vegetable broth (or chicken broth / chicken stock)
  • Risotto rice
  • One onion chopped
  • Diced mushrooms
  • Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

 

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, add two tablespoonfuls of olive oil; once hot add one diced onion (or half an onion) with salt and peppercorns until onion is translucent.
  2. Add washed and chopped escarole to skillet with onion, drizzle in one tablespoonful of olive oil over mix; cover for five minutes or until wilted but still has some crunchiness left then remove from heat.
  3. Add mixture into a large saucepan set on medium high heat with two cups broth (chicken or vegetable)*, diced mushrooms.
  4. Stir continuously cooking until boiling point.
  5. Stir in risotto rice making sure that all grains are coated well by stock before adding another ladle of stock. Once rice has absorbed all liquid, add more and continue to cook until rice is cooked but still a bit moist.
  6. Add cheese if desired then stir in escarole mix from skillet before serving hot or chilled depending on how you prefer.

Nutrition facts for escarole

Escarole has powerful antioxidants as a good source of vitamins A, B-complex, C and K. It also contains folates and calcium as well as dietary fiber.

Interesting facts about escarole

Escarole is a type of leafy green that has been enjoyed by humans for thousands of years. It originates from the Middle East and North Africa, but it can be found in many other countries as well.

There are two types: curly-leaved escarole and broad-leafed escarole.

The latter looks more like Swiss chard or spinach than lettuce, which makes them perfect to use raw on salads or cooked in soups like minestrone soup (but not too long because they will become overcooked).

Curly-leave tends to have better flavor when used raw in salads, though both varieties can also be eaten cooked if desired.

Escarole contains vitamin A, C, K; folate; calcium, iron and phosphorus.

Final thoughts on escarole

Hope you enjoyed this article on escarole!

Looking for more on Escarole and other similar content? Try these:

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Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors