nom de plume of Francine Wolfe Schwartz
Last Wednesday while choosing my farm share for the week I was standing next to a gentleman staring into a bin of crisp heads of escarole. He looked at me and said, “What do you suppose you do with that.” I stopped for a moment and automatically replied “it’s a green you can eat in a salad or cook it.” We both nibbled a piece. He shrugged his shoulders, turned and stared at the Swiss chard.
And that got me thinking. I’ve never chosen escarole. How could I have overlooked this deep green member of the chickory family? Considering this is my third year organic farm C.S.A. (community supported agriculture) membership I can only attribute this oversight to habit. You see, I pick up my share on the farm choosing my veggies “market style” instead of receiving the “classic harvest box.” In some respects the bountiful box is as one farm share member says,“it’s like a Christmas gift, you open the lid and it’s a surprise every week.” So surely the fluffy dark green head of escarole would be the standout veggie of the week to cook and eat.
Well, still standing at the bin of escarole I decided from this week and the next seventeen weeks forward I will choose a vegetable unintentionally overlooked and coax you to do the same.
About escarole: Cousin to endive and radicchio, members of the chicory family. This snappy flavored green adds flavor dimension to salads and when cooked becomes surprisingly sweet.
kitchen math: 1 medium head = about 8 cups torn
preparation: Remove leaves and wash in a sink full of cold water several times to remove any lingering sand at the base of the leaves.
nutrition: Excellent source of fiber, calcium, iron, Vitamins A & C.
storage: keep unwashed, wrapped in paper toweling or a clean cotton kitchen towel in a perforated plastic bag. Eat within a week.
Escarole Soup with Meatballs
Italian comfort soup with pastina to warm your body and soul. Try quick cooking pastina as a side dish with a little olive oil or butter, chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan.
4 entree or 6 first course serving
1/2 pound ground turkey or lean ground beef
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 slice bread, soaked in milk and squeezed dry
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
6 cups chicken stock
1 head organic escarole
1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup pastina
2 eggs, beaten (optional)
1/4 cup minced Italian parsley
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
freshly grated nutmeg
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Taking one tablespoon at a time form into balls 1-inch in diameter. Refrigerate meatballs until ready to add to soup.
Trim escarole and wash well, pat dry or spin in salad spinner. Tear into small pieces (about 8-10 cups) Save more tender inner leaves for salad.
In a large soup pot over medium heat, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add escarole, onion and meatballs. Cook for 3 minutes.
Add pastina and cook for an additional 4 minutes.
If including eggs, add parsley to eggs and lightly beat or if not just add parsley directly to soup with Parmesan cheese and nutmeg.
When ready to serve, whisk stock and gradually pour in beaten egg mixture creating thin strands. (tip: For easy pouring use a measuring cup to pour eggs into soup)
Serve soup with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and nutmeg.
Serving suggestion: Preheat soup bowls with boiling water. Serve with crusty bread and for adults a glass of Sangiovese wine.
My husband claims this is the best soup I’ve ever made.
from “Little Italy Cookbook”, by David Ruggiero
Easy Homemade Chicken Stock
about 8 cups
One 3 -pound chicken, cut-up
2 medium onions, quartered
3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
4-5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 fresh thyme sprig or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
freshly ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Add 3 quarts water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 1-1/2 – 2 hours.
Spoon off and discard any foam on top of stock as it simmers.
Remove pot from heat. Remove chicken and set aside. Strain stock thru a fine mesh strainer, pressing vegetables to extract juices.
Discard vegetables saving chicken for another recipe. Use in chicken salad, enchiladas or other recipes.
Allow stock to cool and refrigerate. Once fat rises to the top of the stock remove and throw fat away. Freeze stock in labeled/dated containers. Stock maybe frozen up to 3 months.
For a convenient small amount of stock, freeze in ice cube trays. Pop the stock cubes and store in a ziploc bag
Shortcut Chicken Stock
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.
Place stock and vegetables in a large heavy saucepan (fitted with a lid) set over medium heat. Bring mixture just to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Remove pot from heat and strain stock thru a mesh sieve strainer, pressing down the vegetables to release juices.
Should yield about 8 cups of stock. Freeze in labeled containers for up to 3 months.
Comprehensive resource of the week: Farmer John’s Cookbook The Real Dirt on Vegetables”, by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics with Lesley Littlefield Freeman. Copy available to read in the Worden Farm Barn Resource Library. (my copy is dog-eared)