Escarole is one of those vegetables that many people may not be familiar with.
Unless you grew up in an Italian-American household or regularly shop at a specialty market, you may feel overwhelmed by the strange green leaves and lack confidence when it comes to cooking this unique vegetable.
But don’t fear: let’s break down the basics of escarole, so you can gain more familiarity with its flavor and have fun in the kitchen!
We’ll explain what exactly escarole tastes like, plus provide tips for different uses and recipes.
By taking a look around our delicious compendium on this enigmatic but delicious ingredient, you will come away feeling confident about working with Escarole next time your recipe calls for it!
What is Escarole?
Escarole is a type of green leafy vegetable that belongs to the chicory family.
It is similar to endive but has broader leaves and a slightly bitter taste.
Escarole leaves are frilly and tend to be dark green on the outer edges blending into lighter shades towards the center.
The leaves often have white or yellowish coloration at their base, which is tender and relatively mild in flavor.
Escarole is commonly used in Italian cuisine, particularly in soups and salads.
It can also be braised as a side dish or added to pasta dishes for extra texture and flavor.
In addition to its culinary benefits, escarole is also rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients.
The bitterness of escarole can vary depending on the growing conditions and maturity of the greens as well as personal preference.
If you find the flavor too strong for your liking when eating it raw, you can try blanching or soaking the leaves in cold water before use.
In summary, escarole is a “greens” vegetable used widely in Italian cooking due to its nutritional value and versatility in recipes like soups or salads.
It has a bitter taste when consumed raw which some find reminiscent of arugula or radicchio while others may prefer soaking it in water first for milder flavors – this all depends on personal preference.
What Does Escarole Taste Like?
Escarole tastes similar to a mild form of bitter lettuce, with a pleasant crunch and slight sweetness on the finish.
The leaves are crispy and juicy, with thinner stems than other greens like kale or collard greens.
While it is not as delicate as butter lettuce, it is still tender enough to be eaten raw in salads.
When cooked, escarole takes on a more complex flavor, with bitterness mellowing out slightly and a nutty taste becoming more prominent.
It pairs well with garlic, potatoes, onions, beans, and other traditional Italian ingredients.
Some recipes call for cooking the escarole by sautéing it in olive oil until wilted, while others braise it in chicken broth or stew it alongside beans for added depth of flavor.
One should also note that the taste of escarole can vary depending on its growing conditions and age.
Younger plants tend to have less bitterness than more mature plants, so if you are new to escarole, it may be best to start with younger leaves.
Additionally, like many salad greens, the flavor will depend on how fresh the bunch is.
Look for leaves that are vibrant and free of browning or wilting.
In summary, escarole has a mild bitterness similar to lettuce but with a nutty finish that becomes more pronounced when cooked in traditional Mediterranean dishes.
Its flavor can vary based on growing conditions and age but is generally sweeter when young and freshly harvested.
Factors that Affect the Taste of Escarole
Escarole is a versatile leafy vegetable that can be cooked in various ways to suit different palates.
The taste of escarole may vary depending upon several factors.
Here are six factors that affect the taste of escarole:
- Freshness: Freshly harvested or recently picked escarole tastes better than the one bought from stores.
- Season: The season during which escarole is grown influences its flavor profile.
- Soil quality: The type and quality of soil in which escarole grows also affects its taste.
- Growing conditions: The amount of sunlight and water received by the plant also determine the flavor of the leaves.
- Cooking method: How you choose to cook escarole significantly impacts its taste, as different cooking methods alter its texture and flavor.
- Pairing with other ingredients: What you add to your dish along with escarole also plays a major role in its overall taste.
Factors such as freshness, season, soil quality, growing conditions, cooking method, and pairing with other ingredients all influence how your escarole will turn out on your plate.
Understanding these factors can help you make informed decisions about how to cook with escarole so you can achieve maximum deliciousness on your plate every time you use it in a recipe.
With this knowledge about what affects the taste of escarole, let’s move on to learning how we can cook it to enhance its flavors.
How to Cook Escarole to Enhance its Flavor?
To enhance the flavor of escarole, there are several cooking techniques that can be used.
Here’s a three-step guide to improve the taste of your escarole:
- Blanch: Start by blanching the escarole leaves in salted water for a minute or two. This will help remove any bitterness and soften the leaves.
- Sauté: After blanching, sauté the escarole with garlic and olive oil until it’s tender but still has a slight crunch.
- Flavor: Finally, you can enhance the flavor of the cooked escarole by adding some lemon juice or vinegar and seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
When cooking escarole, it’s important to not overcook it as this can result in a mushy texture and loss of flavor.
You want to cook it until it’s just wilted and still retains its natural crunchiness.
Another tip is to use high-quality ingredients when cooking escarole.
The olive oil, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar should all be of good quality as they will greatly affect the final taste of the dish.
Overall, cooking escarole can be simple yet delicious if done properly.
By blanching, sautéing, and adding flavorful ingredients, you can elevate its natural taste and create a tasty side dish or salad addition.
Culinary Uses of Escarole
Escarole is a versatile leafy green vegetable that can be used in various ways in your kitchen.
One of the most common and simplest ways to use escarole is to chop it up and include it in salads.
However, if you want to take things further, you can cook escarole leaves and add them to soups or stews.
Unlike other salad greens like kale and spinach, escarole does not wilt quickly when heated.
Another culinary use of escarole is as a side dish.
You can saute or braise it with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice for added flavor.
Some recipes even suggest adding pancetta, bacon or anchovy paste to give your escarole an even better taste profile.
Escarole can also be used as a substitute for other greens in many dishes – from salads to stir-fries.
For example, instead of using spinach in eggs benedict you can opt for sautéed escarole leaves, which will give the dish its own unique flavor twist.
Another great way to use this vegetable is by grilling it or roasting it along with other vegetables like bell peppers, onion or zucchini.
Where to Buy Escarole and How to Store It?
If you are interested in buying escarole, it can be found in most well-stocked grocery stores and supermarkets.
It is typically sold in the produce section alongside other leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, and spinach.
You can also find it at local farmers’ markets during its peak season.
When selecting escarole, look for leaves that are bright green in color and free of any blemishes or wilting.
The stems should be firm and not too thick.
It’s also important to check the expiration date to ensure that the escarole is fresh.
To store escarole, rinse it thoroughly under cold water to remove any dirt or debris.
Shake off any excess water and place it in a plastic bag lined with paper towels to absorb moisture.
Seal the bag and store it in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to five days.
It’s worth noting that escarole can have a bitter taste, so some people prefer to blanch it before using it in recipes to mellow out the flavor.
This involves briefly boiling the leaves in salted water before plunging them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
To wrap things up, Escarole is an excellent source of nutrition that can add depth to your recipes.
It falls somewhere between bitter and subtly sweet in terms of taste and has a chewy texture.
You can find escarole at your local farmer’s market, grocery store or even grow it yourself.
When selecting escarole, look for crisp leaves that are free from yellowing or wilting.
While escarole may not be as popular as some other leafy greens, it offers a range of health benefits that make it worth experimenting with in your cooking.
Its versatility means that you can use it raw in salads, sautéed with garlic and onions, added to soups, stews or even used as a pizza topping.