Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wilted Escarole with Anchovy & Garlic

Writing my last post made me realize that I hadn't yet shared one of my all time favorite Batali recipes with you -- Wilted Greens with Garlic and Anchovies.

I'm giving credit to Mario Batali because it is with great thanks to him and his book, Molto Italiano, that I make this escarole preparation so often. But in the end, I have a feeling that much of Italy makes this dish in their sleep.

There's not much to this recipe. Rather, it is a smart way to prepare greens that should be kept in the back of your head as a tool. Instead of a long, slow cook, this is a fast, hot preparation that leaves the greens with more crunch or chew.

Any hardy greens, like dandelion and turnip, work well, but my preference is for escarole. That pale yellow-green chicory is a favorite of mine -- cooked or in salad. Escarole has a nice note of bitterness, but is milder than most of its cousins, like endive.

I am pretty much crazy for anchovies. They mysteriously make everything taste better, adding body and saltiness. Nine out of ten times you won't even notice any fishy taste, just a bigger flavor. Worcestershire sauce is a perfect example of this.

In this recipe, the anchovies and garlic are sautéed in hot olive oil until the anchovies melt and the garlic turns a light golden brown. The recipe asks for thinly sliced garlic and whole anchovy fillets. On this particular evening, my mind was elsewhere and I chopped the garlic, and strangely I was out of anchovies and only had anchovy paste in the pantry to fall back on.

These are perfectly acceptable substitutions in a pinch, however it is more fun to bump into the sliced garlic when you are eating, and there is no question that using anchovy fillets provides an overall better flavor.

When I'm alone, I eat this dish for dinner all by itself. But that's just me... These greens taste so great with steak, but are perfectly at home served with roasted fish or chicken. To my mind, this is a very versatile dish and rather worthy of my frequent cravings.

Wilted Greens with Garlic and Anchovies

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 anchovy fillets, rinsed
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 head escarole or 1 head or bunch other sturdy leafy green, such as dandelion or turnip greens, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide ribbons, washed, and spun dry
Salt and pepper
1/2 lemon

Heat a 12-inch sauté pan over medium high heat until hot. Add the olive oil, anchovies, and garlic and cook just until the garlic is light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Add the greens and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze the lemon juice over, and serve.

Serves 4

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