We call this beloved dish,“SHKA-DOHL” and beans. Again with the Italian.
Because I grew up eating this, I thought everybody else did too. But, maybe you didn’t, so I want to make sure you know its beauty.
When it’s raw, escarole may taste a bit bitter. But when it’s cooked, it loses that bitterness and has a really great flavor. You can usually find it in the produce section of most grocery stores. It looks very similar to romaine, so if you’re not sure that it’s escarole, just ask. I’ve had to do that before.
Southern Italian immigrants (my family is from the south) combined escarole with cannellini beans to make a dish that was neither contorno, a vegetable dish, nor zuppa, soup. It’s somewhere in between. (OK, so I did a little Goggling about that…but I was curious!)
Indeed, this is how we make ours. I guess I think of ours as more of a soup, but really, there is more escarole and beans, than broth. We wilt the escarole with garlic and oil, add the beans and then add some water.
Some people add tomatoes, or sausage. We don’t. I like that it’s vegetarian.
I recently came across this quote:
Eat food, not so much, mostly plants.
LOVE that. I really want to keep that in mind for the new year. And making this is a good way to get right on that. It’s really good for you. I mean, leafy greens, beans, olive oil and garlic? How much healthier can you get?
My Grandma’s sister, Auntie Marie, used to boil the SHKA-DOHL in a big pot of water and then she would save the water and fill a jug or pitcher full of it. Her husband, Uncle Frank, would like to drink this as a health tonic. I am not recommending you do this at home (probably not-so-tasty), but they even knew back then that this was one healthy drink!
Oh, and get this: We all know by now how much I love Pecorino Romano cheese and how I add it to almost everything. So of course I throw a bunch into this, too. See above.
Well, I was at the Museum of Science and Industry yesterday (I love that place!), and I learned that people in Sardinia, Italy have an extremely high longevity rate and one thing that may be contributing to this is Pecorino Romano cheese!
Isn’t that just the best news?!
I took a few not-so-great-shots of the exhibit for you. Did you notice they also drink red wine? Yay.
Apparently Pecorino Romano is high in omega-3’s and we all know that we need to be eating more of those. Here is the full-story on that if you’re interested.
So this is one healthy dish. Funny, I mostly eat this because it tastes so good. And because it’s comforting and reminds me of my family. I also love how it really warms you up on a cold winter day. I was going to write, a cold winter day like today, but it was 50º in Chicago today on New Year’s Eve which is odd and lovely at the same time.
But last week it was cold. And so I made a big pot of this for my mom and Rich who flew in from Miami for Christmas and aren’t used to 15º temps. I added a bit more water to it this time so it was nice and soup-y.
Actually, you can add as much or as little water as you’d like. Sometimes I like it thicker, sometimes soupier. Depends on what I’m in the mood for.
We soaked it up with big chunks of hot crusty bread. Oh, you have to eat this with bread. Did I mention that?
We love bread around here.
My dad liked to put a big hunk of day-old bread in the bottom of his bowl, cover it with SHKA-DOHL and beans, and top it with grated cheese. The bread soaks up the juice and the garlic and it’s fabulous.
Now that’s a party!
Speaking of parties…..in six hours it will be a brand new year.
I have a good feeling about 2011. I’m visualizing lots of great things ahead. Happy New Year, everybody!
Time to chill the bubbly.
Escarole and Beans
Adapted from Carole McCann, inspired by Pearle Ciaccia
Makes a big pot, enough for probably 8 servings
2 big bunches of escarole (as it’s sold)
3 or 4 (15oz) cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), un-drained
8 cloves of garlic, minced (medium sized cloves)
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, more to taste
2 teasp extra virgin olive oil
6 cups water, or less if you’d like
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper, to taste
Cut the bottoms off of the escarole and wash thoroughly. Rip the escarole up with your hands into wide chunks.
In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant and translucent, a couple of minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.
Toss the wet escarole into the pot with the garlic, enjoy the sizzle, and turn with tongs to coat with the oil and garlic. Keep tossing as it wilts. After a few minutes add the beans (do not drain), the cheese and maybe ½ the water. See how it looks. If you’d like it more soup-y, add the rest of the water. Or don’t. It’ll be good either way.
Add a few pinches of salt, grind some pepper in and give it a pinch or two of crushed red pepper. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings, including more grated cheese.
Let this simmer for at least an hour and a half because you want the beans to break down a little bit. I feel longer = better when it comes to soup (and gravy).
Serve in individual bowls. Drizzle a splash of olive oil over each serving. Pass the cheese, salt, pepper and red pepper.
Don’t forget the crusty bread!
Note: I like this even better the next day after the beans break down and it gets nice and thick.