escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes


I’m on a roll with my Italian bitter greens, looks like. I grabbed a bunch of escarole yesterday while I was grocery shopping, bypassing the baby spinach-arugula-mixed lettuce I’ve gotten into the habit of buying.

Do you remember the time before prewashed salad came in plastic boxes? It seems like a lonnnnng time ago when I used to buy fresh, whole heads of lettuce, wash and dry them in my salad spinner. I know! The labor! The convenience of those containers of greens has made me lazy, I regret.

There’s a lot to be said for choosing whole heads of salad greens. For one, there are certain varieties that don’t come packaged in a little box – like Little Gem, which is like a small, tender version of Romaine. And speaking of Romaine, whenever I buy a head of it to make homemade Caesar salad instead of those bags of pale, wilted hearts, I appreciate how great Romaine is: leafy, crunchy and sweet.


But back to the subject – I didn’t mean to go off on a salad tangent. Actually, when I was growing up escarole rarely appeared raw in a salad. Rather it was the star – along with tiny meatballs – in a delicious soup my mom would make for holidays or what came before the main course at family weddings. I’m going to have to scout out that recipe…

Escarole was made for a hearty, wintery salad like this one. I cooked tiny black lentils and mixed them with some leftover roasted sweet potatoes. The contrast of colors in the bowl perked up the gray day outside, in a big way.


escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes

Serving Size: serves 4

Any size or color lentils will be great in this salad, However, I like tiny green French or black lentils because they keep their shape after cooking


1 cup lentils – any size or color


1 shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons wine or sherry vinegar

Fresh ground black pepper

1 small bunch escarole, outer leaves removed

1 cup diced, roasted sweet potatoes *


  1. Cook the lentils with 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan of boiling water about 25 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Drain the lentils and mix in a bowl with the shallot, olive oil, vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper.
  3. Trim off the stem of the escarole and slice into bite-sized pieces; add to the lentils along with the sweet potatoes and toss together.


*To roast sweet potatoes, cut into wedges or chunks (no need to peel) and toss on a baking sheet with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven about 20 minutes, until tender and lightly brown.

egg drop soup with kale and potato

Egg drop soup with kale and potato

Soup is in these days (yes, you might rightfully ask: when was it ever out?) If cool cities like Portland are an indication, soup is having a moment. I’ve seen hardy entrepreneurs load homemade soup into specially crafted thermal boxes fitted on the racks of their bicycles for delivery to hungry people around downtown Portland, sometimes with freshly baked bread on the side. I know there are lots of other cool cities with soup carts and bicycles but I’m just speaking from my personal experience in that particular one.

My sister-in-law lives in Portland, which is arguably the food truck capital of the world. And also maybe the rainy day capital of the world, so it makes a lot of sense that the demand for warm, comforting bowls of soup would be higher given the situation. When she was visiting recently, we talked about how we don’t seem to treat soup as a full meal. Or rather, I realized that I don’t. She goes out to the soup cart for lunch, after all.

It’s something I mean to change. I might even call it a New Year’s resolution – to make more soup! My son loves nothing more than eating soup, with the very strong exception of soup containing any form of seafood; so I know I have at least one taker.

egg drop soup egg drop soup with kale

This homey egg drop soup - stracciatella - is as Italian-grandma as it gets. Except for I don’t remember either of my Italian grandmothers making it –  a loss I can easily get over now that I’m a big girl.

You might know what happens to eggs when mixed with hot liquids, but the magic of this soup is that combined with fine semolina, they turn a basic broth into a creamy soup filled with “tiny shreds” of egg, the stracciatelle. I added some potato and kale to my soup to make it even more of a nourishing meal. It must be the Italian mama in me or something.

Egg drop soup with kale and potato

Egg drop soup with kale and potato

Serving Size: Serves 4

The semolina flour swells as it cooks, giving the soup a creamy consistency. I like Asiago here; it's like a combination of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano, but Parmesan will be delicious that's all you have.


1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, diced (about 1 cup)


1/2 onion, finely chopped

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 eggs

2 tablespoons semolina flour

2 tablespoons freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups finely shredded kale


  1. Heat the oil or butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the potato and cook for 2 minutes; stir in the onion with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for a few more minutes.
  2. Pour in 1 cup of the broth, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook until the potato is soft.
  3. Whisk together 1 cup broth in a bowl with the eggs, flour and cheese.
  4. Add the remaining 2 cups broth to the pan and bring to a boil.
  5. Slowly add the egg mixture to pan, whisking constantly; turn the heat down to low and continue whisking for 2 minutes, until the soup thickens.
  6. Stir in the kale. Serve in bowls with additional cheese, if you like.


inspired by Mario Batali

Scallop Salad with Lime and Grilled Mango

I spent many years living in South Florida, where aside from meeting healthy green iguanas on my patio, I truly tasted mangoes for the first time. Coming from non-tropical New England where I grew up I’d thought I knew how a fresh mango was to eat – mushy, stringy and overwhelmingly musky-tasting – not very sexy. It wasn’t until a co-worker of mine in Miami brought me some drippingly sweet, ripe mangoes from the huge tree that grew over her backyard that my thoughts about mangoes were completely turned around.

I don’t live anywhere near a mango tree these days, but at least better-tasting mango varieties that can stand up to travel are making their way into our markets. I love the Ataulfo or Champagne mangoes that are in season right now. They are virtually fiber-free and have the perfect ratio of sweet to tangy.

I enjoy making a meal out of salad, but dinner for me cannot be just a bowl of plain greens. I seared some super-fresh sea scallops briefly on the grill along with some mango, and drizzled it all with a sweet-tart lime dressing – this is a great summer dinner.

Scallop Salad with Lime and Grilled Mango

Serving Size: serves 4


¼ cup fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey

Pinch cayenne pepper


16 large dry-packed sea scallops

Freshly ground black pepper

3 small, ripe mangoes (such as Ataulfo)

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

4 cups baby spinach leaves

½ head radicchio, thinly sliced

1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced

4 scallions, root ends trimmed and chopped


  1. Whisk together the lime juice, agave, cayenne and ¼ teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Pat the scallops dry with a towel; sprinkle both sides with salt and black pepper to taste.
  2. Stand each mango stem side up on a cutting board with the wider sides facing away from you; slice off the two “cheeks” on either side of the stem, cutting close to the pit – you should have 6 pieces (save the remaining mango flesh for another use); peel each piece and slice in half lengthwise.
  3. Heat a heavy skillet, preferably with ridges, over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter or oil to the pan. Arrange the mango slices in the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side, just until browned. Remove and set aside.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon butter or oil to the pan; add the scallops and sear until they’re nicely browned, 2-3 minutes per side. Pour in the lime juice mixture and turn off the heat, swirling to blend the juices.
  5. Arrange some spinach, radicchio and avocado on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with 4 scallops and 4 mango slices; drizzle with the pan juices and sprinkle with the scallions.


Shrimp would be a perfect substitute for scallops.