In the garden, escarole grows much like lettuce. It thrives in cool weather and bolts in high summer, sending up a tall flower stalk that signals the plant is maturing, which turns the leaves bitter. This is the time when lettuce is pulled, but because escarole stands up to cooking, you can keep it going well into fall and early winter.
Courtesy of chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows, MC Perkins Cove, and Summer Winter Restaurants.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 pound (2 cups) white beans, rinsed and picked clean of small stones
Kosher salt, to taste
18 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces escarole (about 1 large head), leaves separated, washed and dried
1. Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, 2 teaspoons salt, and enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Cook the beans at a brisk simmer over medium heat, adding more water if the level falls below that of the beans, until they are very soft, about 45 minutes.
2. Put the garlic cloves in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Gently simmer the garlic cloves medium heat until very soft when pierced with a knife, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and reserve the garlic.
3. When the beans are very soft, puree the beans with some of their cooking liquid, in small batches, in the jar of a blender to the consistency of thick cream. Combine the batches in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
4. Add the lemon juice to the bean puree and season with salt and pepper. Add the escarole and poached garlic to the soup and cook until the escarole is wilted, about 1 minute.
5. Divide the soup among 6 warm bowls and serve at once. Alternatively, the soup can be cooled, covered and refrigerated overnight. Warm before serving.
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