Friday, September 28, 2007

Escarole Soup

As I have often mentioned before, Mr.W is a very picky eater. It's difficult for me to balance the foods I like to cook and eat with those that he will eat.

To be fair, he will eat what I prepare. But he might only pick at it discreetly and not really eat much of it, avoid seconds or leftovers, without saying a word. There have been several occasions where I will make a dish several times because I thought he was eating it--when in fact he was not.

Which of course leads to, "I thought you liked this!"

"It's fine."

"But you're not eating it, and I'm throwing away leftovers."

"I eat it."

"But you don't like it."

"It's fine. Maybe it's not my favorite."

"Why don't you just say you don't like it so I don't keep making it for you?"


Of course this is a recipe for disaster in my house. How can he tell me he doesn't like something? The poor man is caught between a rock and a hard place, and I know it.

Well there is one thing I know I can make and he'll eat it all weekend long, rain or shine. Escarole soup.

It's an italian comfort food that once you've tried it, you cannot resist. And it can be made a number of ways according to your taste and how many people you're feeding--so I will provide only a loose outline of a recipe here.

Escarole Soup

about 6 cups chicken broth or stock (may be mixed with other broth/stock as desired--ham stock is good here)
1 large can whole tomatoes, squished up
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts that you've poached in 2 cups of water with some onion & celery (use poaching liquid as part of your broth or freeze for another use)
1/2 cup cooked ham
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 head escarole, washed, trimmed and rough-chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (I use the cheap stuff!)
1 cup acini de pepe pasta

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat broth in a large soup pot over low heat. Stir in tomatoes with juices from the can for a nice chickeny-tomatoey mixture. (Alternatively you could use tomato or V8 juice here, or your favorite bottled spaghetti sauce, to taste.) Always check flavor as you go. Stir in cooked chicken and ham. Cover pot with lid.

In a large skillet set over a medium flame, heat olive oil and saute chopped onion until transparent. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Now begin adding escarole in batches. As one batch starts to wilt down and make room in the skillet, add more, until all of it is in the skillet. (Add salt and pepper to taste as needed during this stage.) Keep turning and stirring the escarole to distribute the onions & garlic among greens and to cook evenly. When all of the escarole is wilted, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and turn off heat. Let it sit for a minute to allow the cheese to melt a little. Then add it to your pot of broth. Stir to combine.

Stir in acini de pepe and bring to a simmer. Cook at a simmer for about 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked. (Some people cook the pasta separately in boiling water--either way will work.) Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice and serve.

Watch your liquid level--you might need to add more broth if you like a soupier soup. We like our soup with lots of stuff in it!

Variations: ham stock from the freezer adds depth of flavor. Tiny turkey or beef meatballs added is an extra treat. Additional veggies, diced potatoes and even white beans are also delicious additions. I've used all sorts of leftover meats, including pork in this soup. In a pinch you can substitute spinach for the escarole, but the texture will be different.

The next time you want a homey chicken soup, try this. It's very forgiving, and you can vary this soup any way you like.

Warm, soupy regards,


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