At Casa Levitt we end every dinner with a simple mixed green salad of sorts, whether we are having an elaborate meal or perhaps a simple frittata. Winter months may limit the variety of local organic baby greens so I try to incorporate what the season has to offer. I grew up eating escarole in many forms and absolutely adore its more peppery outer leaves and tender center. This broad leaf member of the endive family is hearty enough to take on the boldest of flavors, ideal for anchovy & garlic dressing using a strong wine vinegar.
The most difficult part of preparing Escarole Salad or Insalata di Scarola is taking the time to properly clean the individual leaves, freeing them from any soil particles which remain. Generally, I fill a clean sink with abundant cool water and immerse the leaves to soak for 10 or 15 minutes. Drain the escarole leaves to a colander, rinse again and give them a spin in a salad spinner. No one enjoys a a diluted dressing which invariably occurs when the greens are not properly dried.
Humble ingredients, all of which are staples in the Italian pantry are the key to this salad. Personally, I prefer salt packed anchovies and keep a supply on hand; that being said you could certainly use a quality anchovy packed in olive oil.
Creating a paste with the anchovies, garlic and a bit of salt is the basis of the dressing. A fork is the best tool to use in this case pressing it against the side of the salad bowl.
The dressing is completed in the bowl with the addition of some quality red wine vinegar – thank you Mio Marito, and your favorite extra virgin olive oil. Not the olive oil you might use to cook with but something robust. Many of my wine producers also produce olive oil and generously share with me. This happened to be an oil from Le Marche, gifted by Borgo Paglianetto; we have so enjoyed it, allora it will soon be finished.
Once the dressing has been prepared, it is just a matter of adding the clean, dry escarole leaves which have been torn into more manageable pieces. Give the salad a proper toss to be certain that each of the leaves have been coated with the dressing. Taste to adjust for seasoning and serve.
- 1 head of escarole, 1 pound
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced in half
- 4 fillet of anchovies, preferably from whole anchovies packed in sea salt
- 2 Tbs. good quality red wine vinegar
- 4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fill a clean kitchen sink or very large bowl with cool water. Remove the leaves from the head or escarole, trimming the base with a knife as you do so. Submerge the leaves in the cool water and gently move around a bit using your hands to dislodge any residue of sand or grit. Allow the escarole leaves to remain, undisturbed in the sink for 10 minutes. Remove the leaves from the sink to a colander. Rinse the escarole leaves under cool running water and allow them to drain in the colander.
- Tear the escarole leaves into manageable pieces for the salad and place in a salad spinner. Spin well until the leaves are dry; it may be necessary to do this several times. Lay the torn escarole leaves on a clean cotton dish towel to absorb any residual moisture.
- Place the anchovy fillets and garlic in the bottom of a salad bowl - preferably a wooden one. Sprinkle with some kosher salt and using the tines of a fork mash the two together until a uniform past has been formed. Drizzle the red wine vinegar into the anchovy-garlic paste, creating a uniform mixture. Follow with the olive oil in the same manner until an emulsified dressing has been formed.
- Add the prepared escarole leaves to the salad bowl and toss gently yet thoroughly until all of the leaves have been coated with the dressing. Add freshly ground black pepper and toss again, taste for season and add additional salt if needed. Serve immediately.