My friend Carrie in New York sent me a very good-looking recipe for a lemony escarole soup recently and it came to mind this week while I was feeling a little under the weather. My fussy stomach and tired brain had me craving something clean, simple and light, and her recipe basically calls for a stewed head of greens doused in grated hard cheese. Perfect.
Carrie's recipe, and at one time this was Carrie's haircut but she pulled it off better.
Doesn't the word gorgability have a fantastic ring to it?
Less perfect than this lovely piece of mail was my brain function while at the Whole Foods in Glendale, shopping for the recipe. Blame it on feeling yucky, but I not only failed to get escarole, I got radicchio instead. I can't explain why. They don't look anything alike, taste anything alike. I don't use either in cooking very often, though I like both quite a lot. As I stood in front of the wall of organic greens, watching the water mister go on... and then off... and then on... I absently picked up a bunch of scallions (why? no idea.) walked up and down the aisle twice and finally asked the hippie employee where the radicchio was. She showed me, I put two heads of it in my cart, and continued to wander around the store for long enough to spend $100. So, 20 minutes.
It's like she knew I was going to blow it without a visual -- that is clearly not a round bulb of radicchio.
I got home and realized my error, but was feeling a little too weak to fight it. So I decided to make a radicchio soup in the style of Carrie's escarole soup. Also, because I didn't get chicken broth (though I definitely stood in an aisle staring at it for a time), I browned red onions to boost flavor and I added some whole fennel seeds. I'm always trying to add fennel to things and it seemed like maybe they'd like eachother, the fennel and the radicchio, as paesans. I love fresh fennel and kindof wished I had some after I got home with the wrong groceries. I wonder if fennel is easy to grow; I would grow that if I had a garden. And lemons. I digress.
I struggled against the urge to dump some balsamic vinegar on this and carmelize the radicchio and onions and fennel seed. Maybe next time.
Escarollin' with it.
As if the grated parmesan on top wasn't enough, I thought a little toasted olive bread topped with Swiss Emmental cheese would be this meal's fat and protein content.
Raddichio is fairly bitter, but cooked down in this way I didn't mind the slight bitter aftertaste at all -- in fact, it felt almost medicinal in my diminished state. I love the purple color of the broth. The dish inspires me to try a different recipe altogether -- some day, I should make an Italian Radicchio-Onion Soup in the style of French Onion Soup. Maybe the balsamic vinegar would be good for that base to draw out more flavor, deepen the color to mimic ze French version. Little crocks with cheesy Fontina toasts on top. Ohh, sounds yummy.
Thanks, Carrie. I enjoyed it tons, even if I did it all wrong. I'll write you soon, xoxo.
Sadly, no trip to Whole Foods is complete without serious regrets. In addition to TWO trips to the olive bar (almond-stuffed olives are such a sick weakness with me), there were some pretty eye-popping budgetary failures.
Olive loaf, made by local favorite La Brea Bakery. $8.
Tiny pasta that suckered the girl who's always nostalgic for New York. $8.