Tuesday, February 10, 2009

There is an old Italian Saying...

There is an old Italian saying ," Chi mangia scarole mai muore.”...he who eats escarole never dies! (Dialect) Escarole is a very versatile green, and yet for some reason it has never achieved it's place in the culinary world. You can serve it by itself (which is the recipe I am giving you here), or you can add it to beans, add it to chicken soup, make "Greens" with it. My father loved love to eat escarole, any way my mother cooked it. He is gone 21 years today, so in his honor I thought I would post this today...miss you Dad!

"Greens" is a generic term for Escarole in upstate New York. Rachael Ray even did a show about Utica "Greens." Depending on the restaurant, you may have it served with Potatoes, Salami, Breadcrumbs and Grating Cheese, or with Hot Peppers, Proscuitto, Breadcrumbs, Grating Cheese, some restaurants use sweet peppers, some melt mozzeralla over the top, there are so many variations here. Most of the time when you make the "Greens", you drain the escarole very well. The version I am giving you is a little more "soupy" by nature, because we Italians like to sop up the liquid with a good piece of Italian Bread

I even like this leftover in a sandwich (don't make it in advance because the bread will get soggy, and try to drain some of the liquid if you are going to make it in a sandwich). You can even melt a little mozzarella on it, a some roasted peppers if you really want to get creative.

The only problem with making escarole is, it's takes a little work to prepare the greens. They must be washed very well because they are very sandy. This means you must rinse them at least two to three times in cold water. We'll talk more about that later.

The other thing with escarole is when you hear the recipe calls for 4-5 heads of escarole, you may think that's an awful lot. It isn't, as escarole cooks down to nothing, much like spinach. You'll get a nice size bowl out of 4-5 heads, but not a tremendous amount. It will serve 4-6. If you are by yourself or maybe just two people, make the same amount, because it freezes very well. If you're going to do the work, do it once and get a few meals out of it.

ESCAROLE FEINER (I suppose I should say Avella)
Elise Feiner

4-5 heads escarole, washed, and cut small
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 1/2 - 2½ cups grated cheese or more depending on your taste

Fill the sink with cold water. Cut the bottom off the escarole and then cut the leaves into two-inch pieces. Wash well and remove to strainer. Let the water out of the sink, wash out the sand. Fill with cold water again, wash it again, and remove to strainer. Repeat as many times as is necessary to wash the escarole, making sure there is no sand in it. Fill a large (16-quart) pot with salted water. Bring to a boil. Add the escarole. Boil for about ( it will take about 8 minutes to return to a boil, and about another 7-8 minutes to cook for a total cooking time of ) 15 to 20 minutes until escarole turns bright green and is softened to your taste. Just before the escarole is cooked, take a large corning ware or heat proof bowl or large pot and add the olive oil. Heat the oil and then add the, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat until the garlic just starts to get hot and sizzle, (a few seconds at most). Take the escarole from the pot with a slotted strainer; drain well, but leave a little bit of water. Add it to the dish or pot with the oil. When the dish is half full, sprinkle half the cheese over it. Add the rest of the escarole. Add the rest of the cheese. Blend well. Cook for a few minutes just to fuse the flavors and melt the cheese.

What you will need for this recipe:

In addition, you will need a large pot (I use a 16 quart) or you can do it in a smaller pot in mutliple batches, a four quart pot that can go on the stove (I use Corning Ware) and a strainer.

Fill your sink with cold water

Fill (about 3/4 of the way) a large pot with water and put it on the stove
and bring it to a boil while you
are preparing the escarole

Add a good handful of salt to the water

Peel your garlic cloves

and then put them through a garlic press
(or whatever you use to crush your garlic)
set aside

Cut the bottom end off the escarole

cut a little from the top end if it's really ragged
it not, don't bother

Cut the escarole into thirds or fourths
depending on the size of the head to
get pieces about 2 - 3-inches in length

Separate the leaves well
When you do, you will see the
dirt between the leaves

This is why it is critical to wash
the escarole several times
nothing tastes worse than gritty, sandy, greens!

Remove any pieces of leaves that
have dark brown spots on them

Put the escarole into the sink

Swish it around with your hand to get the sand off

Remove it to a strainer or other vessel

Note the amount of sand in the bottom of the sink

Rinse the sink out well
and refill it with cold water again

Wash the escarole again
and move to a strainer

If the sink is clean, you're finished,
if not wash until there is
no sand in the bottom of the sink

When the water comes to a boil

bring the strainer with the escarole over to
the pot

Start to put the escarole in

push it down with a spoon
It will start to shrink, keep pushing

until all the escarole is in the pot
(use two pots if necessary)

When all the escarole is in the pot, bring
the pot back to a boil ( this will take about 7 minutes)
Note: The Greens are very bright green at
this point

Let the escarole cook about another 8 minutes when
it comes back to a boil

Don't be nervous if it looks like it
is going to overflow, lower your gas just a
teeny bit and push down and stir

You want the pieces a tiny bit firm
and the greens will get a little dark as
they are done

This is what it will like like when it's done

In the meantime, place your
corning ware (or whatever you are going
to use on the stove)

Add the oil olive - just enough to cover the bottom
as the water from the greens will
help disperse the oil

Start to heat about 1 minutes before
the escarole is cooked

Add a tiny bit of garlic

if the oil starts to bubble a little

add the rest ( you must move quickly
from this point on as you don't want the garlic to burn


and a tiny bit of salt
about 2 turns of the salt grinder because the
cheese is very salty (you can
even omit the salt if you want to)

as soon as the garlic begins to sizzle
don't let it get too brown or it will taste terriblle

begin transferring the escarole
to the corning ware with a
slotted spoon

You want to keep some of the liquid
which is why you don't use a strainer

When you have transferred about half,
sprinkle a good layer of grating cheese (about 1/3)

add remaining escarole

another layer of grating cheese (next third)

Stir to mix well
Let cook over medium heat about 5 minutes

Top with final 1/3 of cheese

Remove from heat and serve

with some nice Italian Bread

(at this point you could add beans,
or strain it and use for other things
but this is the basic preparation)

Watch them enjoy the fruits of your labor!
(my son David is a lot like my father
a gentle giant, very kind heart)

If you have any left over,
freeze in small containers
(great to add to soup, but you may want
to cut it a little smaller with
a scissor before adding)
and have it another night or take for lunch!


  1. YOu know that's my favorite, Mom! Maybe we could try to make it when you're out here? <3 L

  2. Does this mean I have to pack escarole in my suitcase too, lol