I’ve always loved greens. The term “greens” is frequently used to describe collard greens, kale, turnip greens, and mustard greens, but I grew up eating swiss chard, escarole, and brocoli rabe as greens. I’m not sure if that was an Italian thing or maybe a Philadelphia thing?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with escarole, it is frequently used in the ever-popular Italian wedding soup. I chuckle when I read that because our family and friends call it escarole soup – is it really popular at Italian weddings? None that I’ve been to….Anyhow, it’s a simple chicken broth-based soup with chopped escarole added as well as tiny meatballs and rice or pastina. Of course, there are a million variations but that’s the way my mom served it.
I knew that I’d love these greens because I love escarole in any form. These greens are a specialty in the town of Utica, NY, which is located in upstate NY. These people are serious about their Italian food, and they love to cook! My husband is from Utica, and so we visit a few times each year. I’ve been going up there for about 10 to 15 years now but had never tried these greens before. Clearly, I have to make up for lost time and eat these way more often.
If you’ve never tried escarole before, I encourage you to give these a try. The escarole is bitter but when prepared this way, they are NOT bitter. The greens are first cooked in water, a process which removes most of the bitterness. They are then sauteed with the remaining ingredients and further cooked down in chicken broth before browning under the broiler.
I’m curious to hear about the availability of escarole in other parts of the county since I’ve always thought of it as a regional dish that is popular in the Italian culture, which is fairly concentrated in the Philly/NJ/NY area. If you have trouble finding escarole, I’ve read that cooked kale can be substituted.
- 2 large heads escarole
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 pepperoncini or cherry hot (my preference) peppers, diced
- ⅓ pound of proscuitto, chopped
- ½ cup breadcrumbs plus 2 tablespoons for topping
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese plus 2 tablespoons for topping
- ½ cup chicken broth
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Cut off and discard the hard bottom stem from each head of escarole
- Wash the escarole thoroughly, removed any damaged leaves, and chop in half if desired
- Place escarole in 5 quart stock pot and fill with water
- Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes
- Drain escarole and set aside
- In a large saute pan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add proscuitto, and cook for 3 or 4 minutes then add peppers and cook for another 2 minutes
- Add cooked greens, chicken broth, and heat until chicken broth is absorbed.
- Finish by adding breadcrumbs, and grated cheese.
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Remove and place in an over-safe casserole, topping with reserved breadcrumbs and cheese
- Place casserole under broiler for 4 to 6 minutes until brown checking frequently