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.
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 *
- Cook the lentils with 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan of boiling water about 25 minutes, or until tender.
- Drain the lentils and mix in a bowl with the shallot, olive oil, vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper.
- 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.