Sautéed Escarole with Garlic & Lemon + Mario Batali Likes Anchovies, Can I?

Escarole from EatalyLast week Janet and I had dinner at Eataly’s Il Pesce again. She got the razor clams and they were just as delicious as the last time. I tried the sautéed whole fish but it was too plain for me. The mussels that I had last time were much better. To round out the meal we shared a side of sautéed escarole.

We both knew escarole was a leafy green vegetable beyond that we were vague on the details but we were feeling adventurous and deciding to try something new. The Menu at Eataly's Il Pesce

Il Pesce’s sautéed escarole was a wonderful introduction to the vegetable. I’m a big fan now. They’d sautéed it in olive oil, garlic, lemon and something else but I couldn’t place what else was in there. The mystery ingredient was adding a delicious umami flavor…. so when I got home I googled it. Mario was kind enough to have his recipe for sautéed escarole up on my favorite recipe site, Epicurious. Mario’s recipe sounded like a very close relation to the one used to prepare our side dish and there was the mystery ingredient, anchovies. Eeeewww. Gross!  I should have guessed. Ingredients for Sauteed EscaroleChopped Escarole

But then this past week writing about the exotic ingredients I happily consumed in Mexico, I thought it was pretty illogical to be game for corn fungus, ant swarm, and cactus paddle but not a couple anchovy fillets. Its as if that passport stamp just wipes away my foodie inhibitions.

I decided to man up and give Mr. Batali’s recipe a try using anchovies, as directed, even though I was sorely tempted to substitute fish sauce (funny which ingredients one’s comfortable with) instead. Since I only needed to pick up the escarole and anchovies at the grocery store I didn’t write down a list and when I got to the canned fish area I was thinking “Hmmm I need that other canned fish, not tuna… oh, there it is”.

I had my ingredients, I’d washed and chopped the escarole, thinly sliced the garlic, and was rinsing the fish fillets and all I could think was these look awfully large.Garlic and Anchovies

I decided to pair down of the fillets. Mario might like three and far be it for me to question an Iron Chef but even just one fillet was going to equal more than a 1/4 cup… thats a lot of fishy-umami flavor. Before heating the pan, I double checked the recipe one last time and then I realized my mistake. I’d purchased sardines instead of anchovies. Thankfully the grocery store is right across the street from my apartment. I ran down grabbed some anchovies.Sauteeing Escarole

The petite anchovy fillets made much more sense and I was back on board with Mario. The recipe was super quick to make and, as always, what looked like an overwhelming amount of greens wilted down to next to nothing.Sauteed Escarole with Garlic and Olive Oil

The sautéed escarole was good but I couldn’t get past the anchovies.  They were very mild and if you weren’t looking for them you probably wouldn’t taste it but I was looking. Next time I’d skip the anchovies and use a little fish sauce instead.

 Sautéed Escarole with Olive Oil & Garlic (serves 2-3 as a side dish)

(Total time: 10 minutes)

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp fish sauce or 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 head escarole or other sturdy leafy green, chopped into 1/2-inch-wide ribbons, washed and spun dry
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 lemon
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the olive oil, anchovies, and garlic and cook just until the garlic is light golden brown, about 30 seconds.
Add the greens and cook, stirring constantly, until just wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Squeeze the lemon juice over, and serve.
*Sauteed Escarole would be good served with seafood or light chicken dishes.
-I adapted this recipe from Mario Batali’s recipe for escarole which can be found on Epicurious.
P.S. Bounce really enjoyed the sardines

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