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Bitters are better

January 22, 2010

Cold = root vegetables, right? We’re pretty much out of leaf season and into cellar fare. Who doesn’t love sweet potato, parsnip, turnip, rutabaga and cabbage? You can dress them in an array of herbs and spices, throw them in the oven to roast and voila! Gorgeous comfort good.

Sometimes, though, you need a little variation.  A new texture. A different taste on the tongue. Something crisp and refreshing. It’s understandable.

Enter: the bitters. Ok, full disclosure, it’s hard to find some of this stuff around NY state right about now, so we’re not in locavore heaven, BUT. I’ve got no but. I’m taking you outside our little region, I’m sorry.

Ok, so back to the bitters. What are they? Well we’ve got our workhorses: kale and collards. But then there’s fancy pants radicchio and endive. And frivolous frisee. And finally, my fav, escarole:

I love this stuff! It’s high in folic acid, vitamin A and K. We like. Because it’s not as bitter as endive but still has some of  that nice firm structure, it’s a great salad base. Lemon takes well to it. It also stands up to cooking nicely. I’m a little obsessed with the following preparation:

Gently heat about a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is rippling, toss in 2 or 3 sliced cloves of garlic and let them softly sizzle until aromatic – maybe a minute. Add your separated and washed bunch of escarole (you might need to do it in mini batches so it doesn’t fall out of your pan. Just let the first batch reduce for 30 secs and then add the rest) followed by about a 1/3 to a half cup of rich chicken stock. Salt and pepper that. Maybe add red pepper flakes. Cover and let that simmer for a few minutes until the escarole has begun to wilt. Uncover and wack the heat up a touch so the liquid bubbles away. Once it’s mostly gone, your escarole is ready to be plated with a squeeze of lemon. The structure and density of the leaves soak up the richness of the stock, yet it’s lighter and more slippery than, say, hefty kale. This pile of garlicky, lemony goodness is great with simple roast chicken.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Charlotte permalink
    January 23, 2010 10:46 am

    Mmmm….my mouth is watering. I tend not to buy escarole just because it’s so freaking *large*–it occupies way too much space in our tiny apartment fridge. But I love it so….

  2. Anne Ishii permalink
    January 24, 2010 4:03 pm

    Escarole is sick as all else. I could eat it in salad all day.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  3. May 28, 2010 10:15 pm’s done it once again. Amazing article.

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