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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Escarole

Escarole:

About:

Escarole along with curly endive (chicory) is a traditional herbaceous leafy plant that is in the daisy (Asteraceae) family.  Escarole is related to Belgium and curly endive, but has broad slightly curved leaves with a milder flavor than either of them.  Its taste is almost indistinguishable from radicchio. 

Uses:

Escarole along with curly endive is used mainly in salads, but can be lightly cooked and eaten as a vegetable or in soups.

History:

Escarole originated in the Mediterranean area and has been recognized for thousands of years through the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian civilizations.  

My Story:

When I was growing up in Brooklyn,  escarole or "'scarola", as we would say it,  was a code word for a pretty girl.   In the grocery store we would say, " Man, did you see that 'scarola' on aisle 3?  Madonna!  She's nice!

Nutrition:

Escarole is high in folic acid, fiber (an entire head contains 16 grams of dietary fiber), vitamins A and K.  It is a good source of minerals like manganese, copper, iron, and potassium.

Health Benefits:

The manganese in escarole is used as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dimutase.  Potassium is an important intercellular electrolyte which counters the hypertensive effects of sodium.  Current research suggests that high insulin and fiber content in escaraole helps reduce glucose and LDL cholesterol levels in diabetes and obese patients.  

Season:

Escarole is available year round from Florida, and during the winter, fall and spring months from California.  You can find it locally in most areas in May and June. 

Selecting and Storing:

Select heads with green outer leaves and white to yellow centers.  The butt end should be white to light brown.  The leaves should be free from wilting and decay.
Store escarole tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Simple but Good

Escarole and Bean Soup:

1 head escarole, rinsed well ( it can be sandy!)
1/8 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 can cannellini beans (15 ounces), drained.
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp hot red crushed pepper flakes
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Cut off about an inch at the base of the head of escarole.  Then cut the head into 1 - 1 1/2 inch strips.  Set aside.  
In a saucepan heat the oil and brown the onion and garlic.  Add the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Add the escarole and stir until wilted.  Add broth and beans, stir, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add parmesan just before serving. 


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