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Escarole Soup

Escarole soup

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.

Escarole soup

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 egg
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.

This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. For the past few years I’ve been hooked on escarole soup, enhanced by whatever veggies are in the fridge (mushrooms and zucchini are favorites), kicked up with red pepper flakes. Nothing is more comforting! And what a lovely tribute to your grandfather.

  2. Sending warm wishes for a happy birthday memory in honor of your grandfather.
    Our favorite foods always bring back fond memories of our dearly departed. I remember my beloved father with every toast of a glass, every taste of a meal and every sigh of life’s contentment.
    Cheers, dear friend. Stay warm and cozy. My best to DPaul.
    Anni 🙂

  3. What nice way to remember your grandfather on his birthday. I found this article very touching.
    And you soup recipe – as usual – has those few culinary touches that I do not add. Sounds better than mine!! Again.

  4. Lydia: You bring up a good point. This soup is super versatile and can take all kinds of variation. In fact, guilty confession, I didn’t even use escarole, cuz I couldn’t find it, so I used curly endive instead. (I mean, it’s as close botanically as you can get.) My friend Jim does it with baby spinach.
    Anni: The way to the heart is through the stomach, and our loves ones live on in our food memories forever. I’ll raise a glass to your father!
    (I replied to Ming directly)
    Mom: You underestimate yourself. I add the pepper flake because I like a little heat. But your soup is every bit as good as mine.

  5. Sean, I have given proper photo credit now! Thanks for letting me know. This soup is completely perfect for South Beach. That’s why I love this diet, so many great things you can eat! Thanks for mentioning my soup post.

  6. I’m terrible about attributing the photos to DPaul on the site — after a while I just kind of assumed everyone knew he was the photographer and I was the writer. Except of course I occasionally insert quickie shots from the point-and-shoot that I took. So more accurately, the good pictures are his. 🙂

  7. Greetings Sean,
    My mother sent me a link to this recipe and I’m so glad she did! I’m in the midst of a nasty cold and it’s been sub-zero temps here for the last week. This will be a perfect remedy for this weekend.
    Love the line from Grandpa… classic. I re-read it and can’t help but picture my father pulling that same line.
    Tell Paul I said hello.

  8. Being Italian myself, this soup has always been a family favorite and a must have as part of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Although I do not use any vinegar or chicken meat since my husband is not fond of chicken. I make small meat balls about the size of jaw breakers or large marbles using 1 pound of LEAN ground beef or ground turkey seasoned with oregano and parsley, frying the meat balls first before putting them in the soup to complete the cooking process while the escarole is boiling in the broth. If you choose not to make your own chicken broth, canned broth works just as well. If you can not find escarole in your local supermarket, ask the Produce Manager to order it for you, as I have to do. I have to buy a full case of 10 or 12 heads at approximately $1.98 a head. However, I boil it all at once, then bag it in serving portions in quart size zip lock freezer bags and freeze them to have on hand for any time I want to make the soup. Although endive is a close substitute for escarole, it has a slight bitter taste. I do not recommend it. Always make sure that you wash the escarole WELL before cooking as it. So, so YUMMY !!!

  9. Best escarole soup ever !! I can see why your grandfather loved it so, Thank you for sharing this recipe.

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