Escarole—pronounced ESS-ka-roll—is a leafy green vegetable and member of the chicory family, along with frisée, endive, and Belgian endive. Also known as such names as broad-leafed endive, Bavarian endive, Batavian endive, and 'scarole, escarole has broad, curly green leaves and a slightly bitter flavor. It can be eaten raw, grilled, sautéed, or cooked in dishes.
Escarole is less bitter than other chicories, and the level of bitterness varies throughout the head, with the inner, lighter-colored leaves being less bitter than the outer, darker green leaves. The inner leaves may be more suitable for salads, using the outer leaves for cooked dishes.
Escarole provides more vitamins and minerals by weight than common iceberg lettuce. Escarole is low in calories and high in vitamin A, fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamin C. A serving of 1/6 of a medium head (about 86 grams) has 15 calories, 3 g carbohydrates (all fiber), 1 g protein, and provides 35 percent of the RDA of Vitamin A, 10 percent vitamin C, 4 percent calcium and iron. Compared to iceberg lettuce, escarole has two to three times more of each of those nutrients for the same weight and provides much more vitamin A and fiber than radicchio. Adding escarole to soup will add fiber as well as the nutrients previously mentioned in addition to providing some color when using the dark green leaves.
How Is Escarole Used?
In addition to being served in green salads, escarole is often sautéed or braised similarly to collard greens. It's frequently included in pasta and soup recipes, especially in Italian cuisine. Escarole and beans is a popular recipe made with white beans and sometimes featuring bacon or ham.
For a salad, the inner, lighter-colored leaves are a good choice. Tear them into small pieces to use in a green salad with a vinaigrette. The flavor is much like radicchio. It pairs well with fruit in salads, as well as cheese, including strongly-flavored cheese such as blue cheese and goat cheese.
In soup, escarole is cut into strips and added to the soup. The outer leaves may be chewy unless cooked, so this is a good use for them. They will provide color, fiber, and nutrition for the soup. Escarole is often used in soups with garbanzo beans.
Grilled escarole is an enjoyable way to use it as a side dish. An escarole head can be cut in half, brushed with oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and grilled or broiled until it is browned and wilted. It can be served with a vinaigrette and grated cheese on top.
Substitutes for Escarole
If a recipe calls for escarole but you don't have any handy, you can substitute radicchio, spinach, or arugula. Other members of the chicory family can be substituted, such as curly endive. You may also consider mustard greens and borage.