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 surprisngly 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. 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.
Consider saving the cooking water. It’s full of nutrients and would make a great starting point for a soup or a pot of beans.