Escarole is most commonly eaten cooked. After first having it raw and cold in a salad at Otto a few years ago, I knew I had discovered another wonderfully crunchy, hearty, and crisp salad green–similar to romaine, but with more umph and bitterness. At Otto, Mario Batali’s kitchen prepared it simply with a lemon & olive oil dressing, Marcona almond halves, curls of parmesan, and peeled Jerusalem artichokes, raw, and sliced thin. Since Otto, I also discoverd an escarole salad at Centro Vinoteca (which is now off the menu) that Anne Burrell prepared with pickled red onions. She generously shared that recipe on the Food Network, and I chronicled that recipe here.
I purchased a gorgeous head of escarole at the farmers market over the weekend and wanted to try a different salad recipe. I recently picked up a copy of the Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, after falling in love with their Caesar Salad recipe, which I also chronicled here. When browsing through the salad section of the book, I found this hearty recipe: Escarole with Sliced Red Onion & Walnuts. Another hit!
I started by cleaning the escarole–which can be quite a pain. The cookbook had a great tip on how to clean it: you basically just cut the core out, fill a salad spinner with cold water, drop the head of escarole in, mix it around a bit to loosen any dirt, then drain and spin dry. TA DA! Perfectly cleaned and dry leaves.
Then I started on the dressing. I toasted the walnuts to really bring out their flavor. Threw some in the food processor and reserved some for tossing in the salad upon serving. I added all of the other dressing ingredients and blended until the dressing was smooth with a slight pink color to it (from the red wine vinegar.)
When ready to serve, I tore the escarole into bite-size pieces, added some thinly sliced red onion, the reserved walnuts, the dressing, and a quick finishing drizzle of walnut oil. After tossing together, I added grated pecorino. A sprinkle of black pepper, and a wonderful salad was on the table.
2 small or 1 large head escarole
1 cup very, very thinly sliced red onion
1 cup walnuts, toasted and crumbled by hand
3/4 cup Walnut Dressing (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1/2 cup loosely packed Fiore Sardo or Pecorino Romano cut into curls with a vegetable peeler
1. Discard the bitter dark green outer leaves of the escarole. Core the head and float it in a salad spinner full of cold water for a minute, then drain and spin it dry. Coarsely chop or tear the escarole into bite-size pieces.
2. Toss the escarole with the red onion and walnuts in a large salad bowl. Dress it with the Walnut Dressing and the walnut oil, tossing well to make sure the salad is evenly and lightly dressed.
3. Serve the salad in the bowl, or divide it among serving plates. Finish with curls of Pecorino or Fiore Sardo and offer fresh black pepper at the table.
makes a little less than 1 cup, enough for 6 salads
1/4 cup walnut halves, crushed
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon tap water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt & freshly ground white pepper, to taste
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until emulsified. The color of the dressing should be uniform and the texture silky smooth. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Use immediately or keep, covered, in the fridge for as short a time as possible (and no longer than 24 hours).