Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grilled Escarole With Pecorino

Escarole is a great green but one that I have never cooked myself before—in part, gentle reader, because I often have trouble distinguishing it from lettuce at the market. On this occasion, however, the escarole was clearly marked, and I thought it would be perfect grilled as a complement to the lamb chops and butter beans I was making for dinner. So I decided to take a chance on an escarole-grilling escapade, and it turned out delicious.

This side dish was actually inspired by a delicious small plate from The Vanderbilt—one of The Rob’s and my favorite neighborhood spots—consisting of grilled escarole, hazelnuts, and as I learned when I looked it up after dinner, “Pecorino Ginepro”—which I’d never heard of before but turns out to involve flavors of balsamic vinegar and juniper berries. I happened to have pecorino romano on hand, but no hazelnuts—they’re great in this, though, or you could maybe try some toasted walnuts.

  • Take a head of escarole and trim the bottom of the core—but leave it intact so the leaves don’t all fall apart. Cut the head into quarters.

  • In a wide bowl or rimmed dish, whisk: 1 tsp balsamic vinegar; 1½ tsp. soy sauce (a.k.a. 1 packet); 3 TBSP olive oil; healthy pinches of salt and pepper; and, optionally, any herbs such as thyme or powdered spices such as cumin you like.

  • Toss the four wedges in this mixture.

  • Using tongs, place each wedge, with one of the cut sides down, on a grill pan over medium-high heat. After a minute or two, flip it so the other cut side is down; after another minute or two, flip it onto the curved outside. After a minute, remove the pan from the heat and let it rest a minute.

    Sprinkle the wedges, cut side up, with grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese.

    I grilled the escarole while the lamb chops, having cooked in the same grill pan, rested, and the beans (with sautéed shallots, garlic, white wine, and baby arugula, plus the juices from the lamb after it had rested) kept cooking on low. The tangy bitterness of the greens—crispy on the edges, just wilted in the inner leaves—was indeed a lovely complement to the rich lamb and creamy beans. Plus, two of us ate extremely well on groceries totaling the lucky number $11.11: four lamb chops, one can beans, one shallot, one head escarole. Of course, you also need a bottle of red wine with this meal, but a cheap one will do.

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