Good Friday Escarole & Beans
Thanks to Marie of Proud Italian Cook and Maryann of Finding la Dolce Vita for organizing the Festa Italiana. My entry to this big Italo-pot-luck is Good Friday escarole and beans.
In Chicago, you still see particular observance of older Catholic traditions. Actually, with the major immigrant groups being Irish, Italian, Mexican and Polish, Catholicism is pretty important in Chicago. One such tradition can be seen in the Italian beef and sausage shops that have Friday specials of pepper and egg sandwiches from back in the day when every Friday was meatless. In many Italian restaurants in the winter months you can get schkarol' and bean soup (that's escarole and bean soup pronounced with that faithful Southern Italian accent of so many of my Italian-American friends).
Here is a Good Friday version of the classic Escarole & Beans (normally using chicken stock) here, flavored with a battuto of aromatic vegetables.
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 rib celery
1 large clove garlic
2 tbsps olive oil
1 cup dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
1 parmesan cheese rind
1 large bay leaves
1 large head of escarole, roughly chopped
1 cup pureed tomatoes
1 sprig fresh rosemary or 1-1/2 tsps dried and crumbled
1/2 tsp thyme or oregano
salt and pepper to taste
lots of freshly grated paremsan to sprinkle over
Place the "battuto" vegetables in a food processor and whizz around until you have very small pieces, almost a paste. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium then add the battuto. Sautee while the vegetables steam and let off their liquid. Stir until all the liquid has evaporated and the mixture starts to genuinely fry in the oil. You willl not get good browning with this but that's ok; it'll still be delicious. Add the soaked beans plus 6 cups of water, the parmesan rind and the bay leaves. Now your beans and flavorings are floating in a golden broth flecked with green. This battuto and water combination replaces the chicken broth; you'll never miss it! Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours or until the beans are tender. Add the escarole, the tomato puree, the rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Allow to simmer another 20 minutes until the escarole is tender and the flavors have melded.
Serve in big bowls with lots of parmesan to go around and crusty bread.Music to eat Good Friday meatless escarole and beans by: Good Friday by CocoRosie.