bouncing back


We are finally… finally beginning to emerge from nearly two weeks of fierce battle against The Crud. Despite our best efforts at staying healthy, trying to strengthen our immunity by frequent hand-washing, liberal doses of homemade chicken stock, and, for two of the three of us anyway, getting flu shots, we were stricken, and hit hard. I suspect our recent trip to DC had something to do with it – it seems whenever we’ve traveled anywhere in the winter months, we always come down with something afterward.

cousins at play

As sick as we’ve been since, that trip was so worth it. We got to spend some long-overdue time with my parents, as well as my brother, his lovely wife, and their two adorable little ones. This was the first time Julian got to meet his cousins, and they got along famously.

escarole, wilted

On our first night in town, the entire clan ate dinner at a little Italian restaurant near our hotel, a mostly unremarkable place with checkered vinyl tablecloths and an encyclopedic menu. But one dish we ordered stood out in my memory – a side of white beans and escarole which we actually ordered for Julian, but which we adults ended up polishing off.

Dinner: January 23, 2013

White beans and escarole is a pretty classic combination, probably most familiar served in soup form, but this take was different: the escarole was braised with a bit of tomato, and the whole thing was studded with plump little black olives. They were an unexpected addition, and we loved how their brininess mellowed in the cooking, rendering them lush and fruity, a wonderful complement to the bitter greens and creamy beans.


As soon as my appetite started coming back post-Crud, I began to crave this dish, and last night, I tried my hand at recreating it at home. With some toasted, crusty bread and a hearty red wine, this was a simple but satisfying meal I suspect we’ll come back to again and again.


Braised Escarole with White Beans and Olives

one large head of escarole
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for serving
Kosher or sea salt
one cup basic tomato sauce
two large cloves garlic
1.5 cups of cooked white beans
1/2 cup pitted black olives
a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Trim the escarole, removing the stem end and any wilted outer leaves. Rinse it well and set aside. Add a glug of olive oil to a wide, shallow pan, and warm it over medium heat. Add the escarole and a big pinch of salt (it’s fine if a bit of water is still clinging to its leaves), and turn to coat with the oil. Cover the pan and let cook over medium heat until the escarole is mostly wilted and a bit browned in spots, about 15 minutes. Add the tomato and garlic, stir through, lower the heat, and continue cooking partially covered for another 10-15 minutes, until the liquid in the pan has reduced and thickened and the escarole is very soft. Stir in the beans and olives, add the red pepper flakes if using, and cook an additional 10 minutes or so, until everything is warmed through. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon into shallow bowls, with a generous drizzle of olive oil on top, and toasted bread alongside.


Souper Duper

Dinner:  February 4, 2008

New York City finally saw a little snow yesterday, though by lunchtime it had turned to a steady rain. By the time I got home from work I was tired, damp, cold and a little cranky – and not terribly motivated to do much in the kitchen. Luckily, I had plenty of freshly made chicken stock in the fridge, which would be the perfect foundation for a simple meal. I chopped up a head of escarole and rinsed it well, then sautéed it with garlic and chile flakes in a bit of olive oil. I added two quarts of stock to the pot, tossed in a parmesan rind from the freezer and brought it to a boil. I added a bag of cheese tortellini from Ceriello’s, letting them boil just until tender, tasted and adjusted the seasoning, and then ladled the soup into bowls. I grated a little bit of Parmagiano Reggiano on top of each, then sat down to what has to be one of the easiest soups ever – soothing, satisfying, just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday Supper, Inspired by Lucques


The cookbook Sunday Suppers at Lucques is one that seems to come up often in my travels around the food blogosphere. While I don’t know much about the chef or the restaurant which spawned it, I have heard good enough buzz that I filed it away as something to check out for myself sometime.

So with a bookstore gift card in my pocket and seeking inspiration on a blustery day, I headed out at lunchtime and picked up a copy of the book, flipping through it as I ate soup and a sandwich at my desk. I was immediately taken by the gorgeous photos, and the recipes read like just the sorts of things we like to cook and eat – I knew I had a winner here.

cookbook holder

This time of year, any chicken we cook at home is generally roasted, and though we didn’t have all of the ingredients called for in the original dish at home, this recipe for crispy chicken paillards jumped out at me. Chef Suzanne Goin indicates in her recipe notes that chicken breasts aren’t normally one of her favorites, but that this preparation is a real crowd-pleaser, and as Mike and I dug into this dish last night, we could immediately see why – it’s a wonderful combination of flavors and textures, homey but elegant, and definitely something we’ll keep in rotation.

Dinner:  January 3, 2008

Chicken Paillards with Escarole and Caper Brown Butter
Adapted from a recipe by Suzanne Goin in Sunday Suppers at Lucques

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets or butterflied breasts
1/4 cup unbleached flour
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
4 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 sprig winter savory
Pinch red chile flakes
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 head escarole, cored, rinsed and leaves separated
Juice and zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons capers
Kosher salt to taste

Flatten the chicken breasts to about 1/3 inch thickness. Dip them in the flour, then the egg, allowing excess to drip off. Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese and half the parsley in a shallow plate or bowl and dip the chicken in, pressing to coat evenly. Repeat until all chicken is coated.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and then add two of the chicken breasts. Allow them to cook without moving them for 3 minutes. Turn heat to medium, and add a tablespoon of butter, swirling it around. Cook for another minute, and then gently flip each chicken breast. Allow the chicken to finish cooking on the second side until crumbs are browned and meat is just cooked through, then remove the first two breasts to a tray, lightly cover with foil, and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Once all of the chicken has been cooked, return the pan to medium heat and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the savory and a pinch of chile flakes and let them cook for a minute. Add the garlic and escarole, season with salt and cook until the escarole is just wilted. Transfer the escarole and garlic to a platter, squeeze a bit of lemon juice over it and top with the chicken.

Pour out any excess liquid from the pan and wipe it clean. Melt the remaining butter in the pan until brown and nutty-smelling. Remove from heat, let it sit for a moment, then add the remaining lemon juice, zest capers and remaining parsley, swirling around to combine. Taste and adjust salt if necessary, then spoon over the chicken and escarole.

Caponata-Style Escarole and Cod

caponata style escarole and cod

It was a beautiful day yesterday, but I wasn’t able to get out of the office to enjoy it, so when I got home, Mike mixed us up a round of Aviations and we took them out front to the stoop to take advantage of the evening’s waning warmth.

I had some local wild cod filets and a bunch of escarole that I wanted to cook up for dinner, so I did a quick search on and found a recipe for Caponata-Style Escarole and Cod. It sounded quick, easy and tasty, so while I generally don’t cook from recipes, I thought I’d give this a go.

I have cooked a lot of fish fillets (cod included), and I think I can say I’m pretty good at it, but in this instance the cod began to break up about as soon as it hit the oil, and by the time I flipped the fillets and cooked them through, we were left with this:

broken cod

Not pretty, and not a good sign of things to come.

Despite the fact that the fish had pretty much disintegrated, I had high hopes for the sauce. We love olives, capers, anchovies and tomatoes, and we love escarole and all manner of bitter greens – the combination sounded awesome. However, in the finished dish, we thought that the bitter and salty flavors were almost overwhelming. They definitely overpowered the fish, and it just didn’t taste balanced to us. I pulled out the cooked olives and added some uncooked whole olives hoping that their fruitiness might help, but it didn’t. The dish wasn’t inedible, but it was disappointing.

As Mike said, this has a lot of potential, but it needs some work. I do think that I’ll attempt the dish again, tweaking it to maybe add a bit of heat or acidity, and maybe try it with a different fish that will hold up better to the cooking. Not a bad dish, but I hope I can turn out a better version next time around.