Monday, July 6, 2009

Escarole and White Beans: It's Leafy Keen, Jellybean

Lettuce talk leafy greens. (Ho ho.)

We’re gigantic kale and spinach fans here at CHG headquarters, and chard, romaine, and mustard greens have been known to make semi-frequent appearances. I’m just beginning to experiment with arugula, bok choy, and collards, and am working my way up to endive and watercress. Heck, Leigh even has a recipe for stinging nettles, for which I simultaneously applaud her and weep for her hands.

Today, however, it’s all about escarole. Wonderfully affordable and high in fiber, it’s one of those greens generally used to round out a soup, or sautéed on it’s own with a little garlic. It even spawned its own saying that I just made up: “Let the good times escarole!” (What? Sorry.)

Escarole’s only major drawback is that of all leafy greens: they are as gigantic as they are inexpensive. A bunch takes up half my grocery basket, and I can barely stuff it in my crisper drawer without smushing the half-eaten tomatoes and partially-rotting thyme that currently make their homes there. Sometimes, when I open the fridge, it leaps out to attack me. I don’t know if you’ve ever been mugged by a vegetable, but it’s … well, probably much nicer than an actual mugging, come to think of it. So, never mind.

Anyway, all this is leading up to All Recipes’ Escarole with White Beans. Most of the time I see this combination in a soup, but this is sans-broth and about as tasty. It’s primarily beans, greens, and garlic…eens (er, to continue with the rhyme there), with some salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes thrown in for good measure. We ate it with a whole-wheat baguette and some of Mark Bittman’s Squid in Red Wine Sauce, and it was excellent for an unusually cool summer evening. Mark my words, we will be having it again, perhaps with chard or sorrel or some other crazy leafy thing.

If you should make Escarole with White Beans yourself, there are but two things to know:
  • The original recipe asked for parsley, which I left out because I didn’t have on hand. Honestly, it was fine, and I’m not sure I would have tasted it in the dish.
  • It will create a party in your mouth, so you better make sure everyone’s invited.
And with that, I’m off to tame some greens. Those suckers are tough, man.

P.S. If you guys have any solid/healthy/cheap leafy green recipes, I’d love to hear ‘em. I think I’m going to do a recipe compilation sometime soon, and any ideas are most welcome.

Escarole and White Beans
Makes 3 or 4 side servings
Adapted from All Recipes.

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 large head escarole
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, undrained

1) In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add escarole. Stir to coat. Add salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Saute until wilted, 10 minutes.

2) To another, smaller skillet, add the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic. Add beans (undrained, so with juices). Cook around 10 minutes, until beans are kinda creamy. Pour into escarole mixture. Cook another 10 minutes, or until the dish reaches your preferred consistency, stirring occasionally. Serve, yo.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
3 servings: 206 calories, 6.3 g fat, $0.71
4 servings: 154 calories, 4.7 g fat, $0.54

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided: 158 calories, 17.9 g fat, $0.17
1 large head escarole: 95 calories, 1 g fat, $0.99
salt and pepper to taste: negligible calories and fat, $0.03
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1 clove garlic, minced: 4 calories, 0 g fat, $0.04
1 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, undrained: 360 calories, 0 g fat, $0.89
TOTAL: 617 calories, 18.9 g fat, $2.14
PER SERVING (TOTAL/3): 206 calories, 6.3 g fat, $0.71
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 154 calories, 4.7 g fat, $0.54

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Leigh said...

oh my go! I've been working on a mammoth head of escarole for almost two weeks now. It's so fab with beans. I will try this STAT.

Anonymous said...

Greens and beans are one of my favorite combos and I've done a variation many times with kale or escarole of this recipe. Suggestions: I personally do not like the canned liquid in beans, it sketches me out. So instead, I drain the beans and use about 1/2 a cup of stock for the liquid. Also, a little parm on top of here does not add much in the way of unhealthiness but adds delicious flavor. Enjoy!

midwestgrrl said...

Could you sub spinach for the escarole in this, do you think? I have some spinach that wants to be used...

Kris said...

midwestgrrl, I'm almost positive you could. If you try it, lemme know how it comes out!

maija said...

After a friend gave us escarole from his garden, I was like what the heck do I do with this stuff? I found this recipe as well, and it was great. My edits: grated parmesan on top and a nice big squeeze of lemon. You feel so healthy after watching that giant head of greens shrink to nothing, and then you consume it all! Wow, that's a lot of veggies in one dish.

Brenna said...

I made a variation on this for dinner tonight based on recipe from America's Test Kitchen. It started with sauteing a red onion and a couple of carrots, then stirring in some garlic and red pepper flakes. Add a scant cup of stock/water, 2 cans of drained beans, a handful of raisins (I highly recommend adding these) and the escarole. Finish with a little lemon. It was the best combination of creamy, sweet, bitter, and sour I'd had in a long time.

midwestgrrl said...

I did make it with spinach, but with a few mods. I took it more to a soup place. I finished it off with the immersion blender and it was quite lovely!

Ms. Meg said...

My boyfriend and I made this last night and LOVED it! Thanks!

NEIDEEP said...

My friend is Italian - from the Boston area. She gave me an old family recipe similar to this, that's been made for well over 100 years. It's become one of my favorite soups.

Heat several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil & saute at least half a head of garlic (I use a whole head), plus a large chopped onion, and several red skin potatoes cut up - you can add chopped carrots, too.

Add homemade (or boxed) vegetable stock (or poultry stock)

Clean & rinse the escarole well. Tear into pieces and add to pot (I use a large head or two "small" heads)

Add a few bay leaves, salt, pepper and Cayenne to taste - a little pinch of fresh oregano or basil is good, but don't go overboard.

Use a can or two of red or white beans - drained and rinsed - or cook your own beans, with garlic, onion, salt and pepper for more flavor.

Cook till the flavors blend - about an hour - and serve with a hard Italian grated cheese.