I’ve always used escarole like any cooking green; added to a soup or stir fry, tossed with other veggies and pasta, etc. But I’ve noticed there are a lot of recipes out there that call for blanching or boiling the escarole before sautéing it as a way to reduce its natural bitterness. But doing so produces a very soft texture, while boiling a pot of water takes more time–and makes more heat–than I usually want in the summer. So consider this a reminder that the fastest, tastiest way to eat escarole is to simply sauté it like any other green, with garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes and a bit of anchovy paste if you have it. Chop it small, rinse it well, and in just a couple of minutes you have a lovely, fresh, yes sightly bitter-but-in-a-delicious-way side dish. Add some cooked white beans, and you have a fast lunch or light dinner.
1 lb escarole (about 1 head), cored & coarsely chopped
1-2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
1-2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or smashed and chopped (use the flat side of a large chefs knife to smash the cloves, then roughly chop)
A pinch of dried hot red pepper flakes
1/2-1 tsp anchovy paste, or to taste
fresh lemon juice (optional)
Wash escarole well in a sinkful of water, then drain.
Heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds.
Add anchovy paste, then reduce heat to moderate and cook, stirring, another 30 seconds. Add escarole, stirring, then increase heat to moderately high and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until escarole is just tender, about 5-6 minutes.
Season lightly with salt.
To serve, drizzle with more olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.