September 17, 2004

italian-style escarole & beans

This is my version of the classic recipe, which has been vetted as authentic by our Italian-American food-bigot friend Victor, who views any not-Italian food with suspicion at best. It is definitely one of those recipes where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

1 onion, sliced
2 -3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
generous amount olive oil to saute (I use extra virgin, as I think it tastes nice)
head of escarole or other bitter green
can of chicken broth
can of white beans
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

Saute sliced onion in olive oil till softened, then add garlic slices and saute those till softened (use enough oil so they don't get dry or hard, or burn while you're sauteeing the greens). Add sliced up head of escarole, or other bitter green, and saute until wilted and fairly soft -- you want them pretty well sauteed before you add liquid, at least for escarole, because it tempers the bitterness. Add some pepper and red pepper flakes, if you like. Add a can of chicken broth. Braise a good long time till the greens are getting silky soft and delicious, then add a drained & rinsed can of white beans, and braise a little longer to flavor them up and blend everything (the broth thickens up just a hair from the bean starch). Cover at any point if you think the broth is disappearing too quickly. Salt to taste.

It's just lovely as it is, with some bread and cheese as accompaniment, but you can also add chicken sausage or other cooked meat to make a heartier stew-like dish. The key is to not wuss out on cooking the greens longer than you may think is strictly necessary, at both the saute and braise stages, because when they get all soft and olive green, that's when they taste most delicious. (I would even make so bold as to suggest that this might be the sort of thing that Marcella Hazan has in mind when she talks about insaporire as the wellspring of Italian food's astounding yumminess. Roughly translated it means "to make flavorful," and the general idea is to cook your aromatics (onion, celery, carrot, peppers, whatever) slowly in fat, building up layers of caramelization and flavors, before firing up the heat and adding the ingredient which is intended to be 'insaporato': given the flavor you just lovingly built up in the supporting ingredients. I think the beans are the target in a greens-n-beans recipe like this.)

Posted by foodnerd at September 17, 2004 03:37 PM

This escarole and beans is just lovely. These are the simple finds that make being a parent survivable and make reading all these food blogs worth it. I'm liking all that I see so far.

I thought I commented earlier but the post was gone. Anyway, thanks, I look forward to regular reads.


Posted by: Dave at September 27, 2004 01:59 PM

Yay! I'm glad you like it; I actually wrote it up and posted it after my friend spleen asked for the recipe because she loved it too. I get most excited by simple recipes that taste really great -- every now and then I want to do something really involved, but mostly I leave that to the restaurants. And I like your blog too... i'm new to these online interactions, but so far I like 'em. ;-) At the moment I'm looking for an excuse to try your parmesan biscuits.

Posted by: foodnerd at September 27, 2004 11:38 PM

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Posted by: Alfonso at December 22, 2005 11:58 AM

oh my god... you have to try this recipe. the best i ever tasted. try-it try-it try-it. thank you for posting it.

Posted by: rosie at February 4, 2010 01:25 PM

may I suggest using Grapeseed oil instead of Extra Virgin Olive Oil...mainly because, (my own personal taste prefernece),and because olive oil burns very easily...grapeseed oil has a very high temp. tolerance before burning...thanks!!
BTW-haven't cooked this yet-but I plan on doing so this week!

Posted by: Lynette at November 17, 2010 01:05 PM
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