Consuming greens or green leafy vegetables is undisputedly beneficial to your health. Italians love greens (verdura), especially bitter greens like escarole (scarola), chicory, and curly endive. I ate greens frequently as a child. My parents extolled the virtue of eating greens, claiming that they purified the blood and were good for digestion. When I was feeling under the weather, my mother would cook up some greens. Sometimes by simply boiling them in a little water and seasoning with olive oil and lemon juice.
Escarole is a member of the endive family and is mildly bitter in taste. The slight bitterness may not appeal to you; however, it loses some of its bitterness when cooked. I prefer not to cook the life out of it so much so that it resembles a clump of green mush. Briefly cooking the escarole by wilting it, removes some of the bitterness and still gives it a crunchy bite.
Escarole shrinks considerably when cooked so don’t be afraid to pack it in the pan. One head of escarole usually serves 2 to 3 persons. So, if you’re planning on feeding more, double the recipe and cook it in a Dutch oven.
This recipe evolved from an original recipe that was given to me years ago by a family friend. It’s an interesting recipe. She stuffed the middle of the head of escarole with a mixture of breadcrumbs, olives, capers, pine nuts, anchovy, and grated cheese. Then tied the end and braised it. The result was tasty but the breadcrumbs where gummy. This recipe is a simplified version and takes all of 5 minutes to cook. Please don’t let the anchovy turn you off. It just adds a little saltiness and earthy flavor to the dish. No fishy taste I promise. But you can omit it if you absolutely detest anchovies.
WILTED ESCAROLE WITH BLACK OLIVES AMD CAPERS
(Scarola cu Alivi è Chiàppari/Scarola con Olive è Capperi)
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 3 servings.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 anchovy fillet, chopped (optional)
1 large head escarole (about 1 1/2 pounds), washed, trimmed. outer leaves removed, and cut into 1-inch wide pieces
1/4 cup oil-cured black olives, halved or roughly chopped
1 heaping tablespoons capers
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper
Heat oil in a deep sauté pan with lid over medium heat. Add garlic and anchovy and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until garlic is lightly browned and anchovy has disintegrated, about 1 minute. Add escarole, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with lid and cook for 1 minute. Stir and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes longer, just until escarole is wilted. Remove from heat and allow to sit covered 2 to 3 minutes. The escarole will continue to cook.