Are you looking to add a little something extra to your cooking repertoire but not sure what ingredient would fit the bill?
Meet escarole—a leafy semi-bitter green that might not be familiar to everyone, but is packed full of dietary benefits. If you’re wondering “what is escarole?” and whether it’s right for you, keep reading!
We’ll cover all the basics of this nutritious vegetable in this article so you can decide if it should make an appearance in your kitchen.
What Is Escarole?
Escarole, a leafy green vegetable, is a member of the chicory family. It’s closely related to other chicory vegetables like radicchio and endive.
With broad, slightly bitter leaves, escarole is popular in Italian cuisine, often used in salads, soups, and stews. Its unique flavor profile adds depth and complexity to dishes, making it a beloved ingredient in many traditional recipes.
What Does Escarole Look Like?
Escarole is a leafy vegetable that resembles a head of lettuce with its short, wide, wavy-edged green leaves.
The outer leaves of escarole are a darker green in color and have more texture compared to the inner leaves, which are lighter and more tender. Its appearance can be similar to mustard greens, but escarole leaves are broader and less curly.
Overall, escarole presents a vibrant mix of green hues, contributing to its appeal in various dishes.
What Does Escarole Taste Like?
Escarole has slightly bitter taste, a characteristic it shares with other members of the leafy greens family. However, compared to some bitter greens, escarole’s bitterness is typically milder.
The outer leaves tend to have a more pronounced bitter flavor, while the inner, tender leaves are less bitter and sometimes even have a hint of sweetness.
Its flavor is often likened to lettuce, but with a bit more complexity. This unique blend of flavors makes escarole a versatile addition to many dishes.
Types of Escarole
Escarole, a member of the Cichorium genus, comes in a variety of types that can add diverse flavors and textures to your dishes. There are several types of escarole available, each offering its unique characteristics to enhance your culinary creations.
1. Batavian Endive
2. Curly Endive
Curly endive, also known as frisée, is another type of escarole. It features narrow leaf types with frilly edges, adding a unique texture to dishes.
3. Bavarian Endive
Bavarian endive, sometimes referred to as broad-leaved endive, is similar to Batavian endive with its broad, curly leaves. It’s a variant that’s commonly used in European cuisines.
Belgian endive is a close relative of escarole and is sometimes confused with it. Unlike escarole, it has a compact shape and is known for being tenderer than other varieties.
5. Broad-Leaved Endive
Broad-leaved endive, like the Batavian and Bavarian endives, features large, curly leaves. It adds a slightly bitter taste to salads and stews.
Nutritional Content of Escarole
Escarole, a leafy green vegetable from the chicory family, is often overlooked in the produce aisle. Yet, this humble green is a treasure trove of nutrients.
- Calories: Low, around 15-20 per 100g.
- Carbs: Minimal, about 3-4g per 100g.
- Fiber: Decent, around 3g per 100g.
- Protein: Modest, about 1-2g per 100g.
- Vitamins: Rich in A, K, and C.
- Minerals: Contains folate, calcium, potassium, and iron.
- Antioxidants: Provides beneficial antioxidants.
- Hydration: High water content.
- Fat: Virtually fat-free.
How Is Escarole Eaten?
Escarole, a versatile veggie that’s part of the chicory family, offers a multitude of ways to be enjoyed in various dishes. It’s often considered a side dish, but its unique flavor and texture can also make it the star of the meal.
Italian Wedding Soup
One classic way to savor escarole is in Italian wedding soup, a traditional food where it’s combined with pasta and meatballs. This heartwarming soup highlights the slightly bitter flavor of escarole, creating a balanced and satisfying dish.
Grilling is another method to prepare escarole. The process imparts a smoky flavor to the leaves, making it a delightful alternative to common greens like romaine. Grilled escarole adds an intriguing twist to salads or pasta dishes.
Sautéing escarole is a popular cooking method that mellows its bitterness and brings out a sweeter taste. Sautéed with garlic and olive oil, escarole becomes a simple yet delectable side dish.
Besides its culinary versatility, escarole is packed with nutrients beneficial for vision health, including vitamin A and lutein.
Overall, escarole adds a lot to any meal, whether it’s a soup, pasta dish, grilled item, or salad. Its unique characteristics make it a valuable addition to a diverse range of recipes.
Can You Eat Raw Escarole?
Yes, you can certainly eat raw escarole. When consumed raw, escarole has a slightly bitter taste that can mellow out with the right pairing. To prepare escarole for eating raw, thoroughly wash the leaves to remove any grit.
Escarole can be a great addition to salads as it provides a balance to sweet or acidic ingredients. Drizzling a bit of olive oil over raw escarole can help soften its texture and reduce its natural bitterness.
However, it’s important not to drench the escarole in dressing or it could lose its distinct flavor and crisp texture. Whether you choose to enjoy escarole raw or cooked, this versatile green is a nutritious addition to your diet.
Does Escarole Go Bad?
Yes, like all fresh produce, escarole can go bad. It typically has a shelf life of three to five days when stored properly in the fridge, but this period isn’t fixed. If stored under ideal conditions, you might enjoy your escarole even after a week
Signs of spoilage include wilting, browning, or a slimy texture.
Can You Freeze Raw or Cooked Escarole?
Yes, you can freeze both raw and cooked escarole. Raw escarole should be blanched before freezing, while cooked escarole can be frozen directly once cooled. Both are best used within 12 months.
While refrigeration can maintain escarole’s freshness for about four to five days, those who buy large quantities of escarole and don’t plan on using it immediately might consider freezing as a preservation method. This can extend the shelf life of the vegetable and prevent spoilage.
When freezing, ensure to store escarole in airtight, freezer-safe containers to maintain its quality. To use, you can either add frozen escarole directly to dishes like stews and soups, or thaw it in the refrigerator overnight if needed.
Exploring Escarole: Recipes From Around the World
Escarole, a leafy green vegetable, is a favorite among cooks worldwide. Its slightly bitter flavor and sturdy texture make this vegetable a versatile ingredient in a variety of dishes. Here’s a look at some popular escarole recipes from different cuisines.
1. Peach And Escarole Salad
This refreshing salad pairs the crispness of escarole with the sweetness of ripe peaches. The dressing, simple blend of olive oil and lemon juice, balances out the flavors. The acid in the lemon juice not only adds a tangy touch but also helps to soften the slight bitterness of the escarole.
2.Italian-Style Sautéed Escarole
In traditional Italian cooking, escarole is often sautéed with garlic, raisins, and pine nuts. The garlic brings a savory note, the raisins provide a sweet contrast, and the pine nuts add a delightful crunch. This dish is a testament to the harmony of diverse flavors and textures.
3. Escarole and White Bean Soup
Italian cuisine also offers a hearty Escarole and White Bean Soup. The escarole holds up well during cooking, maintaining its structure and infusing the soup with its unique bitter note. Paired with protein-rich white beans, this soup is both nutritious and satisfying.
Escarole Siciliano is a dish where escarole is sautéed and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. The lemon juice can aid in breaking down the bitter compounds in the escarole, resulting in a more mellow and sweeter taste.
5. Turkey Lasagna With Escarole
Unlike other lettuces, escarole has sturdy leaves that don’t wilt easily under heat, making it perfect for warm dishes like Turkey Lasagna. In this twist on the classic lasagna, layers of pasta, cheese, turkey, and escarole come together to create a heartwarming and nutritious meal.
These recipes showcase the versatility of escarole, whether it’s served raw in a salad, sautéed with other ingredients, or incorporated into a soup or lasagna. No matter how it’s prepared, escarole adds a unique and delicious touch to any dish.
Can You Substitute Escarole in Recipes?
Yes, you can substitute escarole in recipes. If you can’t find escarole or just don’t have it on hand, other leafy greens can often be used as substitutes. Here are some options:
- Spinach: Spinach is a good alternative because it wilts in a similar manner to escarole when cooked. It’s less bitter, so it can change the flavor profile of the dish slightly.
- Kale: Kale has a hearty texture that stands up well to cooking, similar to escarole. It’s a bit more bitter, but can work well in soups and stews.
- Swiss Chard: Swiss chard can also be a good substitute, especially in salads or sautés. Its stems are a bit tougher, so they may need a little extra cooking time.
- Endive or Radicchio: Both are part of the chicory family, like escarole, and have a similar slightly bitter taste. However, they’re often more expensive and not as easy to find.
Remember to consider the specific recipe and how the substitute will affect the overall taste and texture of your dish.
So, What Is Escarole?
In conclusion, escarole is a versatile and nutritious leafy green that offers a delightful blend of flavors and textures. With its slightly bitter taste, escarole adds complexity to dishes while maintaining a mild sweetness in its tender leaves.
From Italian wedding soup to grilled creations and sautéed side dishes, escarole shines across various cuisines. Its nutritional value, easy preparation, and compatibility with both raw and cooked applications make it a valuable addition to any kitchen.
So, whether you’re aiming for a refreshing salad or a hearty soup, consider adding escarole to elevate your culinary experiences.