A Reason to Be Bitter in Spring

by Mark Bittman

From the New York Times

springgreens.jpgLike radicchio and other bitter, tough greens, escarole can survive the winter in many places and appear early in spring. But unlike radicchio, escarole is inexpensive. And it’s more versatile: it tastes better cooked than does its round, red cousin.

In fact, escarole is at its most appealing when sautéed or braised, as the flavor becomes softer and even a bit buttery. It’s especially excellent with loads of garlic, and this traditional Italian soup — one of my go-to comfort recipes — is a prime example.

Though you might try other bitter vegetables here (watercress, curly endive, even celery come to mind), you definitely want short-grain rice, the kind used for risotto — arborio being the most familiar, though any short-grain rice, including those from Asia, will work well. All have a high starch content, so they turn creamy when they absorb liquid (which, by the way, should be homemade chicken stock, if at all possible). My second choice would be good vegetable or mushroom stock.

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