Wilted Escarole with Black Olives and Capers


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.

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.

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