Escarole is a form of endive that is both versatile and tasty. Sometimes referred to as broad chicory or common chicory and characterized by broad outer leaves, this member of the chicory clan does have a slightly bitter taste, but much less so than many other forms of endive. With a crinkled shape to the leaves, escarole is an example of greens that provide various degrees of flavor as the outer leaves are removed. While the outer leaves are a dark green, peeling back a layer will reveal a lighter shade of green. As more layers are peeled back, the leaves continue to lighten in shade. As the shade of the leaves lightens, the degree of bitter taste also lessens. The result is that it is possible to use different layers of escarole to achieve the taste you want with the dish you are preparing.
Perhaps the simplest of all dishes to prepare with escarole is a simple endive salad. Using the lighter leaves, gently tear them into smaller pieces and toss the leaves in a vinaigrette dressing or even a simple dressing made with mayonnaise and sugar. Lightly coat the leaves and then add cherry tomatoes cut in half, raisins for texture, and your favorite croutons. As a simple salad course, this is a nice variation on the usual green salad, while still providing a lot of visual interest and taste.
Escarole can also be cooked and added to many different types of dishes. As an example, the darker outer leaves are ideal for braising or steaming. Prepared with a little garlic powder and pepper, the leaves will lose a small amount of the bitter taste and form the perfect pocket for a section of boneless chicken or fish. When it comes to soup, this green can be cut into fine strips and added as a green to just about any type of soup. It can be used in vegetable soups, as an ingredient in various types of chick pea soups, and even as a nice touch in old favorites like egg drop soup.
Finding this endive is usually not hard to do. Upscale supermarkets and food outlets tend to carry escarole as one of their basic greens. While its is true that it usually costs a little more than most salad greens, the fact is that the vegetable provides a great deal of flavor that simply cannot be achieved with lettuce and similar greens. At the same time, escarole also is a good source of a number of vitamins and nutrients, which helps to make it as important in the diet as the use of spinach or kale. Between the extra taste, the versatility of use in various dishes, and the vitamins and nutrients provided in each serving, escarole is an excellent food choice.