Scarola alla Napoletana [Sauteed Escarole with Olives, Raisins, and Pine Nuts], takes a homegrown vegetable to incredible levels of texture and taste.
Song of the day: "Miserere" by Zucchero & Luciano Pavarotti.
Scarola alla Napoletana [Sauteed Escarole with Olives, Raisins, and Pine Nuts] is a simple but elevated dish combining textures and sweet/savory combinations to give you a side dish that will have everyone asking for a second helping.
Scarola (escarole) is something I grew up with. In our Italian family having a garden full of rich delicious vegetables was a given. Our backyard housed a large garden which usually was plentiful with tomatoes, carrots, beans, and numerous greens. My parents were great growers and I truly enjoyed the harvest and preparation of all the different dishes that they created.
Several months ago I lost my father, a very difficult thing to go through because he was my mentor. I truly miss him and instead of wallowing in sadness I wanted to celebrate my dad Americo in a way that I felt would make him happy. This spring there was a bit of deliberation as to if the garden would be planted and I had thought just a few things like cicoria (chicory), misticanza (radicchio leaf), maybe some carrots and tomatoes, not leaving out potatoes. Well, it turned out to be a full out planting with my mom governing and now the garden is plentiful and luscious. One thing about my mother, it always has to be big and abundant, and who is going to argue with an Italian mom.
So to make a long story short the garden was planted, my memories of my father lived inside of me as I planted seed upon see and small tomato plants. I have to say a few tears were shed planting the garden. It is now August and our garden is producing a bounty of zucchini, zucchini flowers, greens, carrots, potatoes, even the corn looks amazing. I think my father's spirit is in the garden helping me and some might think that is silly but silly is what silly does and the fact that many told me I planted the things wrong, the garden is proving them wrong and I have a grin from ear to ear as in my mind if you do something with all your heart and give the energy required by taking care of what you planted, the end result is amazing and the garden speaks for itself. "Thank you, dad, wherever you are!"
Scarola is quite an unusual green. At first glance, you think wow, weeds, it's spiky, spiny, and resembles those stinging nettles that grow wild in the ground, but on the contrary, it is a very tender green when picked at just the right time. Don't be afraid, it is not prickly, lol. It has a slight bitter back drop which I really enjoy and even in a salad when made with those young leaves really adds a diverse flavor to the mix. I think you can find the seed in your local Italian market if not, some of the green houses carry it. If not, a trip to Italy is in store and remember to make sure it is a commercially packed seed, because if you have raw seed in a bag, the border people may want to examine what you have and worst case senario they take the seed and discard of it. It requires very little work to grow, just putting it into the soil and some watering and within weeks you will see these wisps of delicious goodness rise to the air and get that saute pan ready because we are going to show you how to make this dish coming to us from Naples that we call Scarola alla Napoletana [Sauteed Escarole with Olives, Raisins, and Pine Nuts].
What you will need to create Scarola alla Napoletana [Sauteed Escarole with Olives, Raisins, and Pine Nuts]
- Scarola, clean, washed and spun
- extra virgin olive oil
- anchovies (optional, if you want to keep it vegan)
- chili flakes
- pine nuts
- plump golden raisins
- Gaeta olives (Kalamata olives if you cannot find these)
- dried oregano
- capers (optional)
- a little food love, lol.
I love this recipe, all the aromas and textures and the fact that it comes from Napoli is a bonus. The food in this region is memorable and delicious! This dish is also quick and easy, just a quick saute of the oil, garlic, and anchovy to season the pan. Then in goes the peperoncino (chili flakes), then the scarola nice and fresh. As the scarola starts to wilt and soften in goes all the other ingredients. Stir to let them mingle, cover for a few minutes and that's it. This dish is ready to serve. A quick plating and a splash of olive oil and you are truly ready to enjoy this amazingly simple yet sophisticated dance of flavor and texture.
Nicoletta and I are so excited to taste this dish. Does it not look so inviting? Let's give it a try.
Oh WOW! The scarola is so juicy it is filling my mouth with its plumpness and the Gaeta olives add a nice acidic punch to the mix that marries well with that backdrop of bitterness from the greens. The pine nuts are a beautiful surprise with a slight crunch and the nuttiness gives another flavor note to rejoice about. The raisins amazingly plump come in with a bit of sweetness and that oregano is perfect to aromatize this dish. I love the subtleness of the anchovy it just spikes the flavor in such a gentle way and balances nicely with the symphony of flavors going on in this dish. That finish of e.v.o. oil is perfect, its grassiness just freshens the mix beautifully.
To me, this dish brings back many memories of my father and I am proud to say that I have grown this vegetable with all that my heart is! This dish is Italian from start to finish and I sure do hope you try this one it is so so delicious! Most of all have fun in your kitchen, laugh, play, and create what your heart so ever desires, after all, what would life be without food, inconceivable!
Song of the day: "Miserere" by Zucchero & Luciano Pavarotti.Print