Two doors down the street is a flat-roofed apartment building; its roof is the immediate foreground of the view from our kitchen window. During the winter, it tends to flood with rainwater, creating an Okavango-esque wetlands that draws gaggles of birds of all kinds. The past two mornings our private lake has been completely frozen solid.
This has added a layer of amusement to our own little nature show. We chuckle as robins and sparrows skitter across the icy surface. Even more interesting is watching the crows figure out how to crack the shell and pull up glittering chips of ice that they wield with pride but obviously have no idea what to do with next.
Cold weather is soup weather. Escarole soup is one of my favorites, and it was my grandfather’s, too.
When he was ill with cancer, the chemotherapy left him with no appetite and no saliva even if he had one. Knowing this was his favorite soup, my mother brought over a pot of it one day. When she got home from running errands, the phone was ringing; it was him. “There’s something wrong with your soup,” he said. “Oh?” She asked, baffled. “It’s all gone,” he replied.
Today would have been my grandfather’s birthday. And thought he’s been gone nearly 20 years, I still think of him often. A hearty bowl of this soup is a fitting way to commemorate him.
This is pure rustic fare, another example of Italian soul food. We had some leftover roasted chicken thighs from the other day, so I chopped up the meat and threw it in, but it’s purely optional. It’s
easy to make vegetarian (but not vegan, alas) by using water of
vegetable broth in lieu of stock, and omitting the chicken or replacing
it with some cannellini beans.
1 bunch escarole, chopped or torn into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, finely diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 c. chicken stock, broth or water
1 tsp dry oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1-2 Tbsp grated parmgiano
1/2 lb. cooked chicken meat, cut into cubes or shredded (optional)
salt and pepper
Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil over medum heat until translucent, about five minutes. Add the oregano and red pepper flake and stir to combine. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the escarole and continue to boil gently, covered, until the escarole wilts down, just a few minutes. Add chicken, if you are using it, and allow to heat through. Add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl or cup, whisk together the egg and parmigiano until well integrated. Drizzle into the soup, whisking vigorously. (This is an important step. You don’t want scrambled egg in your soup.) The broth should thicken and become opaque. Stir to combine, and season to taste. Serve immediately.
Related: Kalyn includes this in her roundup of South Beach first-phase-friendly soups. It hadn’t occurred to me, but there you have it.