Smashed potato salad with escarole

July 21, 2013 at 3:52 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches, To test on plan, Website / blog, Yearly menu plan)

I’m not a huge fan of mashed potatoes, but I like this recipe a lot. The escarole adds plenty of texture and bulk and the olive oil and lemon juice and zest make it very flavorful. It’s based on a Mark Bittman recipe. He says the olive oil takes mere potatoes and greens from “humble to sublime.” Bittman says to peel the potatoes, but don’t do it–the skins are the best part! Bittman says any bitter greens will work, and recommends trying it with radicchio, dandelion, endive, or chicory.  Usually I just make it with quite mild escarole, but I’d like to try it with some of the more bitter greens someday. This dish is good hot, but it’s also good as leftovers at room temperature. It would make a nice dish to bring to a picnic. I tend to make it whenever I get a big head of escarole in my CSA basket, and I happen to have some potatoes on hand. Otherwise I use the escarole to make escarole and beans with tomato sauce.

Smashed Potato Salad with Escarole

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 45 minutes


  • 2 large baking or all-purpose potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into quarters (each chunk should weight about 2 ounces)
  • Salt
  • 1 pound escarole or other greens, thick stems chopped
  • 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup olive oil
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Black pepper


  • Put the potatoes in a large, deep pot and cover them with cold water. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until soft but not falling apart, 15 to 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Add the escarole to the water and cook until it wilts, a minute or two. Drain (saving the cooking water) and rinse under cold water. Drain well, then chop. (Consider saving the vegetable cooking water.  It’s full of nutrients and would make a great starting point for a soup or a pot of beans.)
  • Roughly crush the drained potatoes in a bowl with a fork or potato masher, leaving lots of lumps; add 1⁄4 cup olive oil and the lemon zest and half of the juice. Mash in the escarole, adding more oil and seasoning with salt and pepper and more lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately (or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours; bring to room temperature before serving).

Potato and Escarole Salad with Hard-Boiled Eggs. Add 1 or 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs to the salad along with the escarole in Step 2.

My Notes from 7/21/2013:

I think of escarole as more of a wintery green, but they had fresh, local escarole this week at my local farmer’s market.  My favorite escarole recipe is escarole and white beans in tomato sauce, but that seemed a bit too heavy for my currently-85-degree apartment.  And none of my other escarole recipes were calling out to me, so I went looking online for something new.  It turns out that the world of escarole recipes is surprisingly circumscribed.  There are lots of escarole and beans recipes (many of them soups or pasta dishes), many simple braised escarole recipes with garlic or lemon or parmesan, a few raw escarole-based salads, and not much else.  After a lot of searching I finally found this Bittman recipe for mashed potatoes with bitter greens from The Food Matters Cookbook.  (The online link seems to have stopped working now, so I’ve replaced it with a link to the Wayback Machine.) It sounded perhaps a little bit boring, but at least it was something different!  Since I actually had all the ingredients, I decided to give it a try.

My head of escarole was only 12 ounces so I added a small head of radicchio to get close to the recommended 1 pound of bitter greens.  After washing my potatoes and greens I was skeptical about the dish.  It looked like so few potatoes in comparison to all those greens!  It seemed like the potatoes would disappear among all those leaves.  But the ratios actually worked out perfectly.  There were enough mashed potatoes to coat all the greens, and the greens and olive oil added a substantial amount of bulk to the dish.  Both the escarole and radicchio were pretty mild, so they were providing more bulk and textural contrast than acting as strong flavorings.  The main flavors were from the potatoes and olive oil.  I didn’t peel the potatoes, because the skins are my favorite part of mashed potatoes.  I used a whole lemon (just over 2 ounces of lemon juice I think), and it wasn’t too lemon-y.  Both Derek and I really enjoyed the dish.  I’ll definitely be adding it to my escarole rotation. It even worked well on a hot summer night.  You don’t need to stand over the potatoes, and the escarole only takes a minute to wilt, so there’s almost no time standing over a hot stove.  And the salad is great served at room temperature.

My only criticism of the recipe was that it was difficult to get the salt uniformly distributed.   Next time I’d try adding the salt to the potatoes before I add the escarole.  I also might consider adding just a bit of garlic to the recipe, since both escarole and potatoes love garlic.

I used a 3-quart pot to cook my potatoes and the greens, but it was a little bit small.  I think a 4-quart pot would work better.

Bittman says the recipe serves four, but I would say that it makes about 4-8 side-dish servings or 2-3 main-dish servings, assuming you’re eating it along with a protein of some sort.

For more info about escarole and how to cook with it check out this nytimes post.  Or, if you can’t find escarole, Bittman suggests other leafy greens as well—dandelion, arugula, watercress, broccoli raab, radicchio, spinach, mustard, turnip greens, collards or kale. Here’s a nytimes article and Bittman video for a very similar recipe:   green mashed potatoes baked with dandelion and bread crumbs.

Rating: B+
Derek: B

Update Nov 7, 2019: Alma (at age 4) didn’t like this recipe, but she generally won’t eat potatoes unless they are very crispy, so it’s not a big surprise.


  1. Jenn said,

    I totally agree! I’m no recipe developer, but for those that are–some variety? I tend to get escarole in my CSA box in spring, when I’m long past tired of hearty winter soups, yet those heavy, wintery dishes are almost all I’ve found for using it. Thanks for this recommendation.

  2. Tallulah said,

    You mentioned dandelion greens- have you cooked those yet? I got a bunch in my vegetable farm box and haven’t figured out if I’m willing to try them yet.

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