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ESCAROLE AND BEAN SOUP

Greens and beans are the major players in this healthy, easy-to-make summer soup

escarole and bean soup in a bowl

Top off your escarole and bean soup with a dollop of sour cream or corn tortilla strips.

The great thing about belonging to a vegetable CSA, for me, is that we're always going to get something in it that we've never tried or can try in a new way. 

When our longstanding CSA farmers decided to discontinue their veggie CSA and focus on their egg and meat share CSAs, we went a summer without a veggie share, buying directly from farmers markets. I found myself buying the same old veggies and cooking them in the same old way. I missed the variety of the CSA, and the challenge of preparing and eating something new. (I found, as an adult, I love eating radishes and beets. I just hated the ways they had been served to me in the past.) This year, we've joined a new veggie CSA and I've already prepared and eaten something new. (Don't worry, we're still getting our eggs and chicken from our original farmers. We're just spreading the love around.)

Escarole is not something I would pick up on a whim at the grocery store or at a farmers market. I'm not one for change and honestly, at first sight, it just looks like another leafy green to put into a salad. It looks like a head of lettuce, with its short, wavy edged leaves, but it's also reminiscent of kale. Look it up online and you'll learn that it's more like its cousins, endive and radicchio. It's part of the chicory family and related to bitter greens. It's a bit on the bitter side. 

But put a head of escarole in my CSA share and provide a link to a recipe in the weekly CSA newsletter and I'll try it. This was the case two weeks ago, when we picked up our first CSA share of the season from Full Well Farm in Adams. Knowing ahead of time what was coming, and having a link to a recipe from Bon Appetit for Spring Chili with Greens, I was prepared for the escarole. And, we were not disappointed. 

We loved the escarole and the recipe. And here's the thing I love about online recipes — the comments. I love them for two reasons: the comments from people who tried the recipe before me and leave constructive criticism — how it failed or how they improved it; and second, for the comments from people who absolutely did not follow the directions, substituted almost every ingredient and then say how terrible the recipe was. The first group of comments is obviously helpful, while the second group of comments is just sheer entertainment. 

The recipe you'll find below is inspired by the Bon Appetit recipe, which calls for a variety of chilis (a jalapeno, two poblano and two Anaheim or cubanelle peppers, seeds removed) and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, which I did not use. Instead, I used Tajin Clasico Chile Lime Seasoning. I also used more escarole than the original recipe, and added in some more leafy greens I had on hand — arugula, spinach and kale. In the future, I'm going to add rice or shredded chicken to the mix and maybe switch out a can of white beans for a can of red kidney beans, as suggested by some of the commenters on the original recipe.

ESCAROLE AND BEAN SOUP

(Inspired by Bon Appetit's Spring Chili with Greens)

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or vegan substitute

3 tablespoons Tajin Clasico Chile Lime Seasoning

1 large white onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1 teaspoon paprika

1 head of escarole, trimmed, chopped

Three 15.5-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed

4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or water

2 tablespoons or more grated parmesan

Freshly ground black pepper

1 small bunch spinach, trimmed, chopped

1 small bunch arugula

1 small bunch of kale

Sour cream or yogurt and crumbled corn chips (optional, for serving)

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil and butter in a medium pot over medium-high until butter is melted. Add chopped onion and a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until softened, 6–8 minutes. Add garlic and Tijan and cook, stirring, until very tender, 8–10 minutes. Add cumin, oregano and paprika. Cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add escarole, spinach, kale and arugula. Cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add beans, broth, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Stir in parmesan, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, 10–15 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper and/or add more parmesan if needed. Ladle into bowls and top with dollops of sour cream and  corn chips.

Jennifer Huberdeau can be reached at jhuberdeau@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6229. On Twitter: @BE_DigitalJen

Features Editor

Jennifer Huberdeau is The Eagle's features editor. Prior to The Eagle, she worked at The North Adams Transcript. She is a 2021 Rabkin Award Winner, 2020 New England First Amendment Institute Fellow and a 2010 BCBS Health Care Fellow.

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