My favorite supermarket is over twenty miles away, so I don't get there often, but when I do, I always find something unexpected . Yesterday I snatched up a beautiful head of escarole, delighted to find this bitter green. Although it's a winter crop, it's hard to find, so grab it when you can. Although it looks similar to a head of lettuce, the leaves are quite tough and do best in soups, or sauteed or braised. You can read up on it here.
My favorite way to use it is in a traditional Italian soup with white beans (cannellini) and slivers of bacon or pancetta. For just a hint of tomato, I added two handfuls of frozen cherry tomatoes from last summer's garden, as well as a 3 inch Parmesan rind for a little more flavor. So warming and delicious on this very chilly day!
Adapted from a Food Network recipe.
Serves three .
2 T. olive oil
3 slices thick bacon, sliced into strips
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 T. fresh rosemary, pulled from stems and chopped
large pinch red pepper flakes
pinch of thyme
about 1/2 head escarole, roughly chopped ( about 4 cups) (do not use the core)
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 15.5 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
about 1 cup cherry tomatoes
small piece of Parmesan rind (optional)
freshly grated parmesan to pass
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the bacon and cook just until brown. Remove bacon and set aside.
Add the onion to the pot, still on medium heat, and cook until translucent, then add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and pepper flakes and cook briefly.
Stir in the escarole and cook until wilted, then add the broth, beans, tomatoes, and Parmesan rind and bacon and let simmer for about 15 or 20 minutes. Taste, then add salt and freshly ground pepper as you wish.
Serve with a bowl of grated or shaved Parmesan and a little drizzle of olive oil.