Wilted Escarole Salad with Anchovy Dressing

It ain’t easy to make shcarole these days. What I mean is, you gotta spend shcarole to make shcarole. Ya know what this Occupy Wall Street movement is really about? Shcarole.

escarole

photo courtesy of Farmanac (getFarmanac.com)


Shcarole, or as it’s more properly known in its vegetal form, is escarole: a dark, leafy, hearty green, rich with vitamins, that can be eaten in a salad, sautéed, or boiled in a soup. Somewhere, probably about 100 years ago, an immigrant from Naples earned a big wad of American dollars, and in the accent of his native city promptly nicknamed it shcarole (scarola in textbook Italian).

My poor father used to be tortured by shcarole. He once complimented his mother on a typical Neapolitan soup she had made of shcarole e fajole (scarola e fagioli, or escarole and beans). She meant well and every Monday when he stopped by the old house to visit, she’d announce, “I made shcarole just for you.”Always more of a Livia Sopranothan a sweet Italian nonna, the shcaroles weren’t always made with love. Cooking was never her joy. Over time, the weekly soup turned into a sludge pile of overly boiled greens that my father had to choke down under her watchful eye, lest he ingest a litany of Italian guilt. He’d come home at the end of the day, peer into the oven hopefully or open a simmering pot on the stove and announce to my mother, “I had to eat my mother’s shcaroles. Again!” To this day, I don’t think he can look a head of escarole in the face.

I avoided escarole well into adulthood. I felt otherwise after I warmed my face over a bowl of warm escarole and bean soup in Florence, fragrant with garlic and thyme. I gained additional respect when I had escarole sautéed with anchovies and nutmeg during a trip to Minneapolis from 112 Eatery’s small plates menu.

Escarole can span a wide range of dishes. Chop some up and throw it in minestrone soup. Make escarole Frenchy by baking in a ceramic pie plate smothered in Gruyère cheese. Use the gently bitter leaves in a stir-fry with garlic and pork. But whatever you do, don’t overcook them.The key is to heat escarole just to the point that the pale base of the leaf closest to the stem just turns translucent.

Escarole is in season in the fall, so pick a head up at your farmer’s market and get the most nutrients and flavor as possible by using it for a rich dinner salad. Because the leaves are a little tougher than most salad greens, I dress my insalata di shcaroleand then leave it to wilt in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Wilted Escarole Salad with Anchovy Dressing


Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 small heads of escarole, washed and trimmed
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less if you’re a spice wimp)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 hard boiled egg

Method:


Slice the brown root ends off the escarole, then gather the leaves and slice horizontally into 1 inch-wide ribbons.

Add the oil, vinegar, anchovies, shallots, red pepper flakes, and salt to an old jelly jar or bowl. Mix or shake well until all the ingredients are well-blended. You may also stir with a fork to further break down the anchovies.

In a large salad bowl, combine the escarole and dressing and leave it to wilt in your fridge for 30 minutes. Top with slices of hard boiled egg.

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Comments

  1. says

    I had never thought of baking escarole but I will try. It is one of my favorite types of salad. I bought it on the open market when I lived in France. An escarole salad made with the inner leaves, mixed with slices of avocado, is yummy!

  2. says

    Your recipe looks yummy. I love escarole in all its forms! They say “scharole” in Youngstown, OH where I have family. I love it sauted with lots of garlic and hot peppers. Fried Greens they call it in Y’town.

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Lisa, that’s way interesting about calling it Fried Greens – I’m from the Pittsburgh area (so close to Youngstown!) but have never heard of that moniker. Think I might need to co-opt it. :)

  3. Joan says

    Wow– childhood memories! I tolerated it when I had to, growing up, but gradually developed a taste for it–and then a love for it! I like to make it as a thick soup, with vegetable broth, a handful of arborio rice, and some creamy cannelini beans…topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan– Italian winter comfort food!!

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Wow, Steph, I’m surprised you never heard “shcarole” come up on the Italian side of your family! Did they not make it?

  4. Merr says

    As I recall, escarole is vitamin packed and bitter – but I tend to like those types of greens, with a distinct flavor. I love the idea of baking them…I think I’ve only had them raw.

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      MKES, anchovy paste would work too – give it a healthy squirt, I’m thinking about a tablespoon’s worth?