escarole with cannellini

Every time I look at escarole in the supermarket, I think, how can you cook lettuce? Yet I know you can cook this escarole and it can be really good, even if it looks just like the other green leafy stuff nearby actually called lettuce, which nobody every cooks. So why do I usually walk away with no escarole in my hands?

Tonight I resisted this irrational response and managed to get the escarole into my basket. And brought it home where a can of cannellini beans were waiting, and had been waiting for some time. Beans are another food favorite we don't seem to be able to cook with very often, even though they are usually on hand. So this dish overcame two food hurdles at once. Of course garlic is a natural additive here, and it is a small extra step to toss in a sprinkling of red pepper flakes as well. Ani actually executed the dish and the red pepper was her good idea. This dish is quick and very rewarding. And delivers tasty protein if the rest of the meal does not have any dead animal products. We actually served this with some Trader Joe gnocchi and some leftover amatriciana red sauce that had some bits of pancetta in it, but hardly sufficient to do anything but frighten away vegetarians. We ate the whole thing.


1 head of escarole, cleaned, spun dry, and chopped
4 T extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 leek, cleaned and chopped finely (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a sprinkling of red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
1 15 oz (425 g) can of cannellini (white beans)


  1. Cut off the tight end of the escarole to release all the individual leaves and wash in a salad spinner and spin dry. Then chop up into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
  2. Open the canned beans and drain.
  3. Clean and chop the optional leek.
  4. Press the mandatory garlic onto the cutting board.
  5. Heat the oil and sauté the garlic and optional leek with optional red pepper flakes, salt and peppering to taste, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  6. Before that happens toss in the escarole. Stir around a bit letting the greens wilt, then stir in the beans, cover and let cook a bit over low heat.


  1. Our first experience with escarole was at a legendary small seafood place in South Philly where you had to wait across the street in a bar for an hour or more before you could get a table: Dmitri's. Where we (and many others) learned we had a big weak spot for grilled octopus, done right. We only went once, although we managed to visit the more accessible second location once or twice over the many years since. The garlicky escarole was a side dish. Convincingly good. Never forgotten. A web search brings up many praises for this legendary destination. Give it a try while it still exists.
  2. Illustrations available.
escarole.htm: 28-sep-2009 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]