Escarole is one of the more reliably good winter greens around here and, when I find a head with clear, soft leaves, I use it as the basis for a green salad. A member of the endive family, escarole has a hearty texture and flavor, which makes it excellent for braising. It is the basis for a great pie that my Italian neighbors used to make at Easter as well a chicken-based soup with white beans and/or rice. Knowing how much I like that soup, I decided to take that less-than-perfect head of escarole in the refrigerator and use it in a risotto. This is almost identical to the risotto with radicchio that I made a while ago, but a little lighter.
Risotto with escarole
½ medium onion, diced
Olive oil and/or butter (about 1 tbsp combined)
I medium head escarole, well washed and sliced into 1/2-inch ribbons crosswise (3 cups or so)
1 cup Arborio rice
¼ cup white wine
4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Squeeze of lemon (optional)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or to taste)
Salt to taste
Saute the onion slowly in the oil and/or butter. Add the escarole and stir to coat, turning the heat up to medium-high to start it cooking (browning a little is okay). Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the white wine and stir to allow it to evaporate and also instill the ingredients with flavor. Add 1/3 cup of stock, turn the heat to medium low or low (so it just simmers) and stir until the stock is absorbed. The liquid from the vegetables will start to express, so the process of adding stock may be slower than in other risottos. When the liquid is absorbed, add another 1/3 cup of stock, wait until it’s absorbed, stirring occasionally, and then repeat until the rice is tender but still al dente. This process will take about 20-25 minutes. Taste and add salt and a squeeze of lemon if it needs the spark. Add grated cheese, check seasoning and serve warm.