Escarole, a late-season green in the endive family, blurs the lines between lettuce and bitter greens. On one hand, it has a mild flavor that fits comfortably in a crisp salad of tender, leafy greens -- on the other, it has a toothiness reminiscent of cold-hardy greens, and thus holds up to braising and even grilling. These attributes lend themselves well to both stock- and cream-based soups, and you can use escarole as the main ingredient in both. After you learn the basics of soup-building, try a classic escarole soup, such as Marcella Hazan's escarole with rice, for inspiration in creating your own.
Things You'll Need
- Butter or olive oil
- Aromatics, such as onions and carrots
- Stock or milk
- Secondary ingredients, such as potatoes or rice
- Fresh herbs
Wash the escarole and chop it into into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-wide strips. Heat a couple tablespoons of a fat of your choice over medium heat in a large saucepan. You can use olive oil, butter or, for added meatiness, try diced bacon or pancetta.
Saute the aromatic base vegetables for the soup in the fat until they start to brown. Use the French mirepoix combination of carrots, onions and celery, or the Latin American sofrito, which contains chopped red and green bell peppers, onions and garlic.
Add 1 tablespoon of flour for every cup of soup you want to make. Add more fat if needed. You need 4 tablespoons of flour for every quart of soup.
Deglaze the pan with 1 or 2 cups of chicken, beef or vegetable stock when the vegetables turn dark golden brown. Scrape the pan, and stir the vegetables and flour after you add the stock.
Add the escarole and a secondary ingredient. Secondary ingredients add body, color, texture and flavors that complement the main ingredient. Diced vegetables, such as potatoes and corn, and proteins, such as precooked shredded chicken, go with escarole.
Add 3 to 4 cups of stock for every head of escarole; season to taste with kosher salt, fresh herbs and spices. Bring the soup to a simmer.
Simmer the soup for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the escarole is tender. Adjust the consistency of the soup, if needed, with stock, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Garnish the soup with freshly chopped herbs and a diced garnish. The garnish should complement the flavor or an ingredient in the soup -- a swirl of olive oil, a diced hard-boiled egg or diced bacon, for example.
Heat 1 tablespoon of fat in a saucepan over medium-low heat for every cup of soup you want to make. For cream soups, use butter, olive oil or salt pork.
Add 1 tablespoon of flour for every tablespoon of fat, and cook it until it turns blond. Add 1 cup of milk for every tablespoon of flour and bring it to a simmer; whisk the milk until smooth -- this will be the soup base. Set the soup base aside.
Saute the aromatic base in butter or olive oil over medium-low heat in a separate saucepan until soft. Use white mirepoix -- diced leeks, onions, celery and, if desired, diced mushrooms -- for cream-based escarole soup.
Add the sliced escarole; season it to taste with salt and pepper. Cook the escarole until wilted, about 10 minutes. Add the soup base to the saucepan.
Bring the soup base to a simmer and add herbs and spices. Freshly chopped thyme and rosemary work well with escarole. Simmer the escarole for 20 to 25 minutes.
Take the soup off the stove and puree it. Strain the puree through a strainer and then back into the saucepan.
Bring the soup to a low simmer, and season it to taste. Add a few cups of sliced escarole and cook for about 10 minutes or until tender.
Season the escarole cream soup a final time. Garnish it with freshly chopped herbs.
Rinse one head of escarole and slice it into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Heat 3 or 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add 2 tablespoons of diced onions. Cook the onions until browned, and add the escarole and a pinch of salt.
Season the escarole with salt. Cook it until wilted, about 10 minutes. Add about 1 cup of stock and continue cooking for about 15 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup of arborio rice and season the stock with salt. Bring the stock to a simmer and cook the rice until al dente, about 15 minutes.
Take the soup off the stove. Grate in a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.