As many of you know, when I cook vegetables, I am cooking for one. RJ doesn’t eat vegetables or fruit – green, orange, red or otherwise. When you press him for a “Why?”, he will give you one of these responses: a) “one time when I was little I had dinner at a friend’s house and his mom forced me to eat the salad, and then I went to the emergency room.” b) “vegetables taste funny and they have weird crunchy textures that make me gag.” c) “why are you on my case – you don’t even like them, you just eat them because you have to. I’m more liberated.”
The problem is not that I don’t like vegetables, it is that I am the only one eating them. That means, for me, that spending time to elaborately prepare or flavor my side dish for one is pretty much wasted effort, when I could be concentrating on the entree and starch that we both will be eating. Also, they are usually an afterthought – so I will throw some peapods or spinach in a saute pan at the last minute and just add salt. Plus, if only one person in the household eats vegetables, a bag of baby carrots doesn’t disappear until after about four days of eating them, night after night. A head of lettuce usually goes bad even before I’ve tired of the Caesar dressing. The solution is often to resort to frozen vegetables that last longer, so I can alternate between “Chinese Stir-fry medley” and peas with mushrooms. That’s where RJ gets the whole “you hate vegetables too” justification. I just don’t put my efforts there.
Recently, however, I received my new issue of Fine Cooking magazine. This is my favorite magazine, as I’ve said before. One of the first recipes was a scrumptious-looking sauteed escarole. I had most of the ingredients on hand (save the escarole, of course, which I purchased at the grocery store), and thought that I would give it a go. It should also be noted that Fine Cooking is having a contest this month, challenging its readers to “Cook the Issue” – meaning, cook all of the recipes in the Feb./Mar. issue and post about them on their website. I’m in! I’ll be posting more lengthy descriptions here at From My Table and shorter ones here, with my fellow F.C. fans.
Back to the ‘scarole, as Tony Soprano would say. I cooked it up, I photographed it, and I ate it. All of it. This was a recipe for four people – granted, I used 1 1/2 lbs. of escarole instead of 2 lbs., but honestly! So now this is my new solution to avoid having tons of rotting veggies in my fridge AND enjoy eating my daily greens – make really good, sophisticated vegetable dishes with care and they will be gone in seconds! The texture of the escarole was the true marvel of the dish – not as slimy as spinach can sometimes be, but not as tough as kale, and with a pleasant bite to the stalky bits. I would actually recommend making this without the raisins and capers – I think simplicity here (without devolving back into my steam everything in two seconds habits) would really make the escarole shine. So now, everyone – go out and eat your vegetables!
Sauteed Escarole, from Fine Cooking magazine, Feb/March 2009 issue.
(Serves 4…or 1…)
2 lbs. escarole, trimmed, rinsed, and cut into roughly 2-inch pieces
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 Tbs. pine nuts
2 Tbs. raisins (optional)
1 Tbs. capers, rinsed (optional)
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil over high heat. Add the escarole and cook until the stem pieces start to soften, about 2 minutes (the water needn’t return to a boil). Drain, run under cold water to cool, and drain again. This can be done up to an hour ahead of serving time.
In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic browns lightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the garlic with tongs and discard. Add the pine nuts, raisins, capers, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are golden and the raisins puff, about 1 minute.
Add the escarole, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, tossing often, until heated through and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and season to taste with salt.
I found your blog through the cooking challenge at FC and am really enjoying reading it.
We have two things in common, I also love Fine Cooking and Costco, lol.
I’m really enjoying reading the cooking challenge and I hope it will be continued when the next issue comes out. In fact, I’m making the stuffed poblanos for dinner this evening.
I’m so glad I found your blog while it’s still young, not so much to catch up on. Looking forward to seeing more of your posts at the challenge, I’m rooting for you to win, Nan
Thanks so much, Nan! It is so wonderful to hear that. Please let me know how those stuffed poblanos turned out – they’re coming up on my list, though I haven’t seen the peppers in the store yet. Maybe next week! Thank you again for the encouragement!