Thursday, October 4, 2007

Escarole, Belgian Endive and Apple Salad

It's fall. Time for some fall-type salads. Soups. Stews. Pumpkin. If it would just get below 80 degrees here in southern California I'd feel more like it. Soon. But, because it is October, I'm ready. Therefore, I went through my salad recipe collection looking for something different.

I make just regular green salads all the time. Probably all of you do, too. My mother was a great one for incorporating lots of vegies in salads, so I have continued the tradition. Green salads must have some other stuff like radishes, cucumber, tomatoes, celery, bell peppers, carrots, sugar snaps. That kind of thing. Just a way for us to get more of those healthful vegies in our diet. And when you wrap those in silky salad dressing, they sure do go down easier. And I like vegies. Today's salad, though, isn't one of those. It's a pure greens salad but with an opportunity to give the apple a star billing. And escarole, of course.

So, this salad came from one of the cooking classes I took with Joanne Weir. I think I've mentioned before she's probably my very favorite cooking instructor ever. She's just so witty and funny. And bursting with lots of helpful hints. This class was no exception. Remember my adage: if you come home with one recipe you make regularly, the class is worthwhile and money was well spent. This class provided one good recipe AND a very good helpful hint that I've used over and over.

The hint: when making a salad dressing on the spot, once it's mixed up (using a whisk always) take a piece of the lettuce from your already prepared greens and dip it into the dressing. Use it in proportion - you don't want it saturated with dressing, just a bit. Taste it for balance (oil vs. vinegar) and seasonings (salt and pepper). And know that you need it to be saltier than it should be from that one little bite, because once the dressing is tossed all over the salad, the salt will be dispersed.

So now, onto the actual salad. Escarole isn't a green I normally purchase. It's not as bitter as curly endive (which was what I found at the market yesterday and is shown in the photo), and it's easier to eat than curly endive too. Escarole is actually chicory (the green, and also the root that's added to coffee in the south). It is part of the bitter greens family. Belgian Endive is another one of those vegies I purchase occasionally and is in the same family as escarole/chicory. I've learned though, that the longer I hold Belgian Endive, the more bitter it gets. Ever noticed that? So I try to use it up right away.

Some years ago when my DH and I visited France and stayed with a friend in Paris, she made a Belgian Endive salad, just tossed with a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice. It was sweet and oh-so tasty. I'd had B.E. before, but it never tasted as good as I had it there. Once home I determined I'd use it more. I was so disappointed when I bought half a dozen of them to make a similar salad. It was so bitter we couldn't eat it, even though it was fresh from the grocery store.

In looking up the nutritional information about B.E. I learned that it turns bitter as it oxidizes (exposed to light). So, I guess from the moment it's plucked from the ground it begins to turn bitter. No wonder I have such a problem. A little bit of that bitterness goes a long ways. Probably U.S. growers have developed varieties that can have a long shelf life, but the taste is obviously compromised. I wish some of the growers here could taste B.E. in France to see the significant difference.

So, this salad combines bitter greens with a bit of sweet from the apple. The original dressing didn't have any sugar in it, but I find that the dressing is also quite tart, so the addition of just a little bit of sugar helps it a lot. But I've also learned from making this salad several times that the acidity of sherry wine vinegar can vary from brand to brand. So I also have to add, sometimes, a bit more oil to the dressing than it calls for. That's another reason for using the dunk-the-leaf-in-the-dressing technique. I do that once before I add salt and pepper and again after to make sure it's the right chemistry.

This salad may not appeal to everyone. You need to like that spark of bitter. If you want more sweetness, though, try using a sweeter apple, and add a bit more sugar to the dressing. Granny Smith's are certainly on the tart side themselves! But, this is a great way to showcase some wonderful fall apples that are just coming into the markets here. And maybe you'll be lucky to find some escarole too.

Escarole, Apple, Almonds and Shaved Parmigiano Salad
Recipe: adapted from a Joanne Weir recipe
Serving Size : 6
1 head escarole -- in 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 whole Belgian Endive -- leaves separated
2 stalks celery -- sliced thin on the diagonal
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar -- or white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 whole Granny Smith apple -- halves, cored, thinly sliced
1/2 cup almonds -- toasted
1/3 cup Parmesano-Reggiano Cheese -- shaved
1. In a bowl toss together the escarole, endive and celery. Place in the refrigerator until close to serving time.
2. In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, sugar and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Will probably need extra salt as once you add it to the greens, you'll lose the saltiness altogether.
3. Dip one leaf of escarole into the whisked dressing to taste for salt and pepper. Toss the greens, vinaigrette, almonds and Parmigiano Reggiano. Add apple slices and toss again. Place one or two apple slices on the top decoratively. Serve immediately.
Serving Ideas : Instead of a traditional salad bowl, serve this on a large platter.
NOTES : Do not use the outer dark green parts of the escarole.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 170 Calories; 15g Fat (78.6% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 17mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 3 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To print the recipe only, click title at top.

1 comment:

ThursdayNext said...

It was so nice to find this blog this morning! Oh I am jealous that you took classes with Joanne Weir! I love watching her shows on PBS Create. Recently I have grown fond of endive and am looking forward to making this salad.