CHICAGO -- This has been the year of kale, with recipes for kale chips and kale salads everywhere. It seems that any food-related get-together, especially potlucks and picnics, featured a kale Caesar. No complaints. These dishes are beautiful departures from the cooked green. But all that kale has made me forget other greens.
Like escarole. In recent weeks I've rediscovered its slightly jagged leaves and mildly bitter flavor. It works well in salads, especially when balanced with milder, sweeter greens, such as leaf lettuce (although I gladly eat an escarole-only preparation showered with pomegranate seeds and Parmesan shavings).
Just slightly wilted, escarole makes a fine condiment to pasta. Here it gets backup from savory pancetta and sweet sautéed onions. The chopped greens are stirred in at the end so the pasta's heat wilts the leaves without turning them into mush. Wash the dish down with a crisp white wine or medium-bodied red.
Penne Pasta with Wilted Escarole
Makes 4 servings. Prep: 10 minutes; cook: 15 minutes.
1 pound penne pasta
6 ounces pancetta, in 1/4-inch cubes
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, sliced in half-moons