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Ask a Foodie: Flavorful Soup Needs Substitute


Dear Ask A Foodie:

I found a Lentil and Escarole Soup recipe that looks delicious, but I haven’t be able to find escarole. What might I be able to substitute? I haven’t found it in a farmers market either. — Marcia L.

Dear Marcia L.
This recipe looks wonderful, and there are some other greens you can use for escarole. Escarole is a type of chicory, related to curly endive. It is sometimes referred to as broad-leaved endive. This vegetable can be used as a salad green or, as your recipe indicates, cut up and used in a soup dish or with other cooked vegetables.

Escarole

Escarole

Other greens that could substitute for this recipe could be beet greens or Swiss chard. You could also try romaine lettuce. Or, if you like kale or other types of greens give them a try, too. I find the flavor of escarole to be mild with a touch of bitterness.

The photo on the right is of a green we picked up in Whole Foods on Sunday that was labeled as organic escarole.

Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market’s vendor at 9-1 Farm, Fernando Vasquez, said he might be selling a little escarole in the next week or two before the weather warms up.

For a recipe for Lentils and Escarole Soup with Lamb Meatballs, click here.

Photographs by Bonnie Walker

Lentil and Escarole Soup with Lamb Meatballs cropped

 

 

 

 

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Lentil and Escarole Soup with Lamb Meatballs


This soup is based on a recipe we found Cooking.com and another from Martha Stewart. Both looked very good and one was vegan.

But, I also needed to use a half-pound of ground lamb that we had on hand, had no carrots, had chicken broth but not enough tomato as was called for and cannellini beans (canned) looked like a good idea, too. So, as one might guess, the original recipe(s) morphed into something else entirely.

You can make the meatballs ahead of time, or you can make them as the soup is simmering and the lentils are cooking.

Leave out the chicken broth and use a vegetable broth, and skip the lamb meatballs and cheese and you’ll have a vegetarian recipe that makes a good one-pot meal as well.

French Lentils

 

Lentil and Escarole Soup with Lamb Meatballs croppedLentil and Escarole Soup with Lamb Meatballs

1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup French green lentils or other type of lentil
1 quart chicken broth
1/2  bay leaf
1 can whole tomatoes, cut into small dice (use the juice, too)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 escarole, cored and cut crosswise into 1-inch strips
Lamb Meatballs (see recipe below)
1 can cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, manchego)

Lamb Meatballs
1/2 pound ground lamb
2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 small clove garlic, diced
1 tablespoon diced onion
1 teaspoon minced cilantro plus cilantro for soup garnish, if desired
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Pinch ground black pepper

For the Soup: In a stockpot, melt butter or heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and carrot, and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add lentils along with the quart of chicken broth and 1 cup water and bring to boil, then simmer for about a half hour, or until the lentils are just tender. Then, add  bay leaf, tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes or so. Then stir escarole into soup, and cook a few minutes more — just until it wilts, but still is a bright green.

Add hot, cooked Lamb Meatballs to soup along with the cannellini beans and stir. Adjust seasonings, and serve in four bowls topped with a sprinkle of the grated cheese, some cilantro (if desired) and a drizzle of good olive oil.

For Lamb Meatballs: Mix together all ingredients well and form into 12 medium-small meatballs. Fry in a heavy-bottomed skillet or put on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or so. You want them cooked through, but remember they will also be simmering in the soup.

Makes 6-8 servings.

From Bonnie Walker

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