Escarole: It Ain't Your Mama's Endive


I’m ashamed to say it, but even though I’m quite the veggie lover, escarole is one leafy green I haven’t eaten. Escarole’s cousin, the bitter curly endive, has made me hesitant to experiment with other members of the chicory family.

It turns out the escarole is not nearly as bitter and much more versatile, so there’s no need to be shy of this frilly-leafed lettuce.

High in calcium, folate, vitamin A and vitamin C, escarole is a good addition to any salad, and, like any leafy green, is low in calories.

But salad is not escarole’s only culinary role; this versatile green can be cooked or steamed and is a popular addition to bean soups or an edible garnish for fish. When cooked, the slightly bitter flavor becomes buttery and sweet.

One of the most common escarole recipes is to use it in bean soup, but there are more exotic variations too, like escarole and pine nuts. You can also go raw with an escarole, fennel and orange salad. Sounds incredible! Of course, you can simply saute it with garlic and olive oil for a very healthy snack.

Greens from the chicory family, of which escarole shares a place with endive and chicory, have a long history dating back to the times of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. The Roman poet, Ovid, gives this plant a mention. Chicory greens were widely cultivated in England from at least the 1500s and escarole is a favorite green in Sicilian cuisine.

Having conquered my fear of escarole, I’m ready to make it a more common addition in my kitchen. Check back Friday, March 20th for an original escarole recipe by Vanessa Barrington, our chef writer.

Image: umassivevegetable