escarole soup

as my partner/guinea pig said upon tasting this recipe: "escarole makes some good soup!" it's true. i haven't had escarole for years (i kind of forgot about it), but the last time i had it, it was in soup form too. it was a white bean and escarole soup, and it seems that a lot of recipes pair those two ingredients together. i wanted to make an escarole soup that i could eat throughout the week that didn't involve beans because, well, who wants to be eating beans all week–and also because i love the texture of hearty greens in soup and i didn't want another softer texture getting into every spoonful. escarole, kale and other greens that can stand up to sauteing, are amazing thrown into soup at the last minute. they provide such a great bite you could almost describe it as crunchy.  but there's a reason escarole and white beans are a favourite pairing. this leaf pairs nicely with something earthy…

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so in addition to escarole and basic soup stock ingredients, i decided upon dried porcini mushrooms. earthy? yes. extravagant…? 

maybe… but not if you consider how much soup this recipe yields, the fact that the mushrooms flavour the broth so much that you don't need to purchase any stock to add to it, and that the mushrooms do double duty as a stock ingredient and garnish. see? they've paid for themselves. 

it's amazing how much body this soup has without the addition of potatoes, beans or cream. it's extremely satisfying and hearty enough to be called a warming, winter soup, even in the middle of the deep freeze that was this week.  but above all else, i hope you will find this soup tasty. i agree that this green makes some gooood soup.

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escarole soup

1 large head (or 2 medium heads) of escarole
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms (large pieces are ideal)
3 cloves of garlic, sliced; plus 1 clove halved
1 yellow onion, chopped finely (about 2 cups)
4 celery stalks, chopped finely (about 2 cups)
2 large carrots, chopped finely (about 2 cups)
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
3 sprigs fresh parsley
5 sprigs fresh thyme
4 slices of bread
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper

trim bottom 2 inches or most of the white stem from escarole and discard. cut leaves into 1 1/2 inch wide ribbons, and wash thoroughly, removing any dirt. shake dry and set aside.
tie parsley and thyme in a bouquet garni with butcher twine, or bind within cheese cloth.
rinse porcini mushrooms quickly under cold water, removing any dust or dirt.
fill a large pot with 1 1/2 litres of water, add porcinis and set over medium-high heat. bring to a boil covered, and boil for 5 minutes.
meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. add the garlic slices, onions, celery, carrots, and red chili flakes to the pan. season with 1/2 tsp of salt and saute until the garlic and onions start to soften, about 5 mins.
using a slotted spoon, fish porcinis out of the water and try to squeeze as much liquid from them and back into the water as possible. spread the mushrooms on a paper towel, blot them and allow them to dry.
remove skillet from heat and add sauteed vegetables carefully to the mushroom stock. add bouquet garni, 2 tsps of salt and 1 tsp of pepper to the stock. bring water back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees. lay bread and reserved porcini mushrooms on a baking sheet. brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and drizzle olive oil on mushrooms. sprinkle bread and mushrooms with salt. lay mushrooms in a single layer. place baking sheet in oven for 12-15 minutes or until the bread is toasted and the mushrooms are golden brown and their edges crisp.
remove bouquet garni from soup. add a large handful of escarole to the soup and stir through, allowing it to wilt. remove pot from heat and allow it to cool rest for a minute. puree soup with a hand blender, or allow soup to cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor. return soup to pot and return pot to stove. heat soup to a simmer over medium heat and add remaining escarole. simmer for 10 minutes.
when bread and mushrooms are done, remove from oven. rub toast with garlic halves, and slice toast into 1-inch cubes.
ladle soup into bowls and garnish with croutons and porcinis. serve hot.

serves 6-8