Simple Sautéed Greens
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About this time of year every year, when roasted vegetables begin losing their appeal and when a cold salad just won’t cut it, I turn to an old favorite to get my roughage on the table: sautéed greens.
It’s a simple method, one you likely know, but one I think deserves highlighting for its ease and deliciousness. Every time I take a bite of garlicky, wilted escarole, I wonder why I relegate it to February fare, why it’s the dish I make when I’m feeling uninspired, when I lack the motivation to do more.
But why do more? Especially when in about five minutes total, escarole becomes meltingly tender, its bitterness softening, its heat warming to the core.
Most often these days, I serve the greens as a side dish, but they can be used as a meal building block, too: toss them with pasta or stir them into brothy chickpeas or plunge them into stock with sausage and white beans.
And while other greens such as kale, Swiss chard, and spinach all work well here, I love escarole not only for its flavor and silky texture but also for the minimal prep it requires: unlike kale or Swiss chard, which require stemming, escarole needs nothing more than a rough chop.
Do keep in mind, however, escarole can be dirty, in which case give the leaves a brief soak in cold water to allow the dirt to settle.
Incidentally, as you might gather from this post, I’m feeling somewhat uninspired in the kitchen. If you have time, I’d love to know what you’re cooking these days that’s exciting you. Let me know in the comments!
Simple Sautéed Greens, Step by Step
Gather your ingredients: about 1.5 lbs greens, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
Thinly slice the garlic.
Place the garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
At the first sign of the garlic beginning to color…
… pile in the greens and season with salt.
Use tongs to quickly rearrange the greens and help them wilt down.
Let cool briefly, taste for salt, and adjust as needed.Print
Simple Sautéed Greens
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: Serves 2-4
- Diet: Vegan
Use this recipe as a guide. Other greens such as kale, Swiss chard, and spinach can be substituted for the escarole. With kale and Swiss chard, remove the stems. Swiss chard stems can be finely sliced and sautéed with the garlic.
- 1 head escarole, 1.25-1.5 lbs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- kosher salt to taste
- Cut off the end of the escarole and discard or compost. Roughly chop the escarole. If it’s dirty, place it in a large bowl, cover with cold water, and let it sit for 10 minutes to allow the dirt to settle. Scoop out the escarole and transfer to a large towel or a colander to drain. The escarole does not have to be completely dry.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, place the oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for about a minute or until the garlic is sizzling. At the first sign of the garlic starting to color, add the greens, turn the heat to medium-high, and season with a pinch of salt. Use tongs to rearrange the greens in the skillet and to help them wilt down. In 1-2 minutes, the escarole will be done.
- Remove the skillet from the heat. Let the greens cool briefly. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American, Italian
Keywords: escarole, greens, quick, sauté
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54 Comments on “Simple Sautéed Greens”
I’ve never cooked with escarole, so I hope to try this sometime! “We” (my wife) made dumpling noodle soup last night (NYT recipe by Hetty McKinnon) and it was everything I needed on a cold February night. And we made your chickpea taco bowls last week with crockpot chickpeas – so good!
So nice to hear this, Meg! Love Hetty’s recipes. Definitely going to try that dumpling noodle soup. It sounds perfect right now. Great to hear re chickpea taco bowls, too 🙂 🙂 🙂
Oh Ali, you had to ask. Out here in sunny Sonoma County we’ve been eating fresh crab.
Laura in Sonoma
So jealous, as always, of your sun AND crab, Laura. Thanks so much for writing. Hope you are well!
When we’re uninspired, we just make a frittata or order pizza! As energy returned I made Smitten Kitchen carnitas last week and had tacos whenever we wanted them! Really good and hands off. NYT noodle dumpling soup for Lunar New Year was warming. It’s definitely soup weather everywhere! Shared Quick Avgolemono from Dinner, A Love Story with neighbors. Your Vermont Cheddar Soup is on schedule today with focaccia, of course. Maybe some butternut squash pasta this week?
So many great ideas, Leslie! Thank you for sharing. You are the second person to mention the NYT’s dumpling noodle soup, so I think that is a must this week. And I saw Jenny’s avgolemono soup recipe in her newsletter, too, and I thought it looked delicious and perfect right now. Having a stash of carnitas on hand isn’t a bad idea either 🙂 🙂 🙂
I love sautéed greens but have never used escarole, can’t wait to try it.
I made a pot of cream of mushroom soup that started with a stock made from the mushroom stems. Don’t know where the recipe is from, it’s one I’ve had for years.
And of course I served it with your peasant bread.
Mushroom soup sounds amazing, Regina! Love the idea of making a mushroom stock from mushroom stems … brilliant! Going to search for a recipe. It’s been ages since I’ve made or eaten mushroom soup, and now I’m craving it. Thank you!!
Still trying to perfect the ultimate pizza, long ferment dough on the steel or quick batch dough, Detroit style? Offsetting these experiments with many massaged kale salads, roasted sweet potatoes on top, a must!
This is a perfect time of year to perfect pizza … I’ve been on a big pizza kick as well. Roasted sweet potato atop kale salad is a brilliant idea right now. Will try! Thanks for writing 🙂
Adding escarole to my shopping list for today!
To add some more Hetty McKinnon recipe suggestions – her Crispy Sheet Pan Noodles from NYT Cooking have been in my regular rotation (I double the marinade and add sriracha to it!). Also her Cumin Tofu Stir Fry from To Asia With Love is pretty great (I added in a couple handfuls of cabbage). Finally, I will recommend the NYT Cooking’s recipe for Braised White Beans & Greens with Parmesan by Lidey Heuck – it is a mix of fennel, onions, white beans, and greens. Super easy and yummy, don’t even need the cheese. I have been making a big batch on the weekend and eating it for lunch during the week.
I am loving all of the Hetty love in the comments here — she is the best, and I love her recipes. Definitely going to try her crispy sheet pan noodles … that sounds amazing, and I will definitely double the marinade. Thank you for that tip. And this one sounds right up my alley: Braised White Beans & Greens with Parmesan. Love Lidey’s recipes, too!
I never eat escarole, but will give this a try.
I am also not very inspired lately, but I keep trying because we have to eat. The most effort I put into food in the past couple weeks was to make mushroom soup and pasta puttanesca. The simplest meals have been rice and beans (I cooked a small pot of Rancho Gordo beans), baked potatoes with salad, and one night I made a cheeseburger because it was easy and fast- 5 minutes and done, and it was delicious. I also made your recipe of cranberry orange buttermilk breakfast cake to give to a friend who has been through a loss.
We do have to eat, and cheeseburgers are delicious: Truth! Thank you for all of this, Claire. And you are the second person to mention mushroom soup, so I think that is a must this week. Sounds perfect, as do rice and beans. Hope all is well!
If you have a mushroom soup recipe that you like I would be interested to read it. I made the Balthazar mushroom soup, and it is good but I would be open to other ideas. I think my favorite, so far, is a Martha Rose Shulman recipe that has tomatoes in it, and is more brothy. But I am open to new ideas!
I have made the Balthazar recipe as well. I have not made MRS’s so I’ll look that up to compare. It would be soooo nice to have a go-to mushroom soup recipe in the rotation. I really love the idea of making a stock from mushroom stems. Stay tuned!
This recipe sounds delicious, Ali! I’ve been doing something similar with collards. A wee bit of bacon drippings, garlic, lots of sweet onion, collards roughly chopped (the stems go in my freezer bag of veg scraps for making veg stock) and some quartered sliced zucchini. Yum! I can see where some red pepper flakes would be a good addition. Leftovers work well in an omelette, sprinkled with pecorino romano. And collards are quite inexpensive, a plus for folks on a budget!
Love the sound of all of this, Ginny! And I can’t believe I’ve never thought to save the stems of collards or kale for stock … so smart. Thank you for sharing that. And you are so right about collards. I can get beautiful, tender collards at my co-op and they are much more reasonably priced than the kale or Swiss chard. Thanks for writing!
Hi Ali! I am always inspired by your recipes, but understand your feelings. I recently made Gingery Cabbage Rolls with Pork and Rice from Sue Li at nytimes. So yummy and easy and lots of variations that could be created. My first batch actually didn’t have rice in them, but served brown basmati on the side. Thinking of adding mushrooms the next go round. Cheers!
Hi Timmie! Thank you for sharing the Gingery Cabbage Rolls with Pork and Rice recipe from the NYTimes … adding it to my to-make list. This time of year one thing I can always count on finding at my Co-op is good cabbage. Mushrooms sound amazing. Love the idea of the rice on the side. Yum. Craving this now. Thank you!!
Yum, harder to find than bok choy in my grocer but prepared and used similarly. Inspiring on cold days!
I love bok choy! Jealous you can find it easily… it’s hit or miss here. But I do love making the trip to the Asian market for those giant bags of baby bok choy. So fun and good.
Happy Sunday! We got 3 meals from your Curried Chickpeas, Cauliflower and Coconut Milk recipe https://alexandracooks.com/2016/10/07/curried-chickpeas-cauliflower-coconut-milk/
So good and filling. And like all the best recipes, is better the next day! And the next. LOL
(missing your soothing videos on YT lately😉)
Awww thank you, Jennifer! I did actually video this recipe, so if I can get my act together, I will post the video to YT this week. We got a puppy, and I have been spending too much time walking/tending to him, which I love, but it has been a bit of a distraction. Great to hear about the curried cauliflower recipe! Makes me happy.
Ali, you may say you’re uninspired right now, but your pictured list of wonderful dishes seems to tell a different story. I see a few that I’m putting on my rotation right now starting with the escarole.
As to things I’ve been making from other sources, tonight I’m making Stir-Fried Udon With Bacon, Parmesan & Gochujang from Hana Asbrink as shown on Food 52. And I tried the pan de cristal recipe from Martin Phillip at King Arthur. It’s so much like your ciabatta recipe and the result was so close to yours but subtly different. Be interested in your comments if you have time to look at it. Biggest difference was higher hydration and no long refrigerator rest.
Thanks as always for the inspiration you give with all your wonderful recipes! I’m such a fan!
Thank you, Carolyn 🙂 🙂 🙂
Thank you for sharing the Stir-Fried Udon With Bacon, Parmesan & Gochujang from Hana Asbrink on Food52. I love Hana’s recipes! Will add it to my to-make list.
And I saw that pan de cristal recipe from King Arthur Flour! Thank you for the nudge to make it. I will definitely give it a go soon. Thanks for writing!
I empathize with you. 🙂 think it’s a general shared feeling.. in times like this i rely on really good homestyle restaurant take-out and/or very simple homestyle cooking that my mom used to cook for me and my siblings when we were kids. Looking back on it now, i imagine this was probably her “uninspired but gotta feed the family something nutritious” fallback. Slice 1/3 can of low-sodium spam and 1 medium zucchini into chonky matchsticks + regular sliced 2 green onions. Add 4ish large eggs to bind it, salt it (barely). Cook in frypan with little oil over medium heat till cooked through and lightly browned. Flipping cleanly is a hit or miss, fine either way. Plate it then cut like a pizza, on the plate (easier this way). Ketchup to dip. Eat with rice, kimchi, and gim (roasted seaweed). This is the ideal mix but i’m sure you can add whatever veggies you want. For us we usually always had these ingredients. I cooked this for lunch/dinner the other day for my bf and myself and it was low effort, satisfying and nostalgic. <3
I too love escarole in the winter, when the heads at my local markets are HUGE. Since escarole wilts to practically nothing in the pan, I prefer it in winter when I can get a bit more with those massive bunches. One simple way that I jazz up the basic sautée is to include a bunch of chopped scallions (cut in half inch pieces) along with the garlic and pepper flakes. At the very end, stir in a few chopped black olives. Those are two easy ways to add a hint of sweetness and salty umami with very little effort.
I love the idea of adding both scallions and olives here… so good Louisa! Thank you for sharing. Will definitely try this this week.
This would work nicely with baby bok choy as well. BTW, have you ever heard of Utica Greens? Uses Escarole.
YES! Love Utica greens so much. Bread crumbs, cheese, pickled hot peppers … can’t go wrong! Definitely going to make soon. Thank you for the inspiration!
I love this sauteed escarole — I add a chopped onion and some fennel seed — then, per your suggestions, I add vegetable stock, cannellini beans and cooked pasta (orecchetti or fusilli) … and, of course, focaccia to serve alongside — best comfort food ever! Your Detroit Pizza and Vermont Cheddar Soup are also in heavy rotation right now, and we have your Granola for breakfast almost every day (serve with wild blueberries — buy them frozen — so much flavor!). Thanks so much for all your recipes, Ali.
So nice to hear all of this, Lin! Beans, greens, pasta, broth AND bread … total comfort food. So great to hear about the granola, too. And thanks for the tip on the frozen wild blueberries. Added them to my grocery list!
When we get to this point in winter, especially living in the northeast, it’s easy to feel uninspired. When this happens, I tend to do 2 things- I turn to your blog for inspiration (you never disappoint!) and I also make something that I haven’t made in years. This week I made your split pea soup which was so warm and comforting and Sheet Pan Shrimp and Broccoli with Cocktail Sauce from Food52. I also made a salad with quinoa, arugula, cilantro lime vinaigrette, avocado and sauteed shrimp. Many thanks to the other commenters that have provided me with some dinner inspiration as well!
Thank you, Jackie 🙂 🙂 🙂 This means a lot. Love your ideas, too: I’m going to find that Sheet Pan Shrimp and Broccoli with Cocktail Sauce recipe on Food52. My kids love shrimp, and I don’t make it nearly enough. And your salad sounds very fresh and bright. Thank you so much for sharing!!
Ali, I too feel uninspired by Feb. but your recipes in my mailbox get us through the week and I look forward to your ideas! We made your sweet potato and black bean burritos last week (on rotation at our house) and I finally tried your focaccia (sour dough version) for a dinner party that we had and it was a big hit, so yummy! Right now I am making Marcella Hazan’s tomato butter sauce for ricotta gnocchi (Grandma DiLaura’s Italian Ricotta Gnocchi on Food52). It’s a great recipe and so easy! I also love Marcella’s Tomato Sauce with Olive Oil and Chopped Vegetables, variation with Two Cheeses. It’s so simple and always have the ingredients.
So nice to hear all of this, Nancy 🙂 🙂 🙂 Ricotta gnocchi sound like such a perfect thing to make right now. Thank you for sharing the title of the rcipe on Food52… I’m going to find it. And I don’t know about that other Marcella Tomato Sauce. Going to find that, too! Thanks for sharing.
Tonight a late Chinese New Year dinner Ruth Reichels Americanized pad Thai with shrimp, sautéed baby bok Choi and broccoli , homemade egg rolls , icecream and dried persimmons for desert
Oh my goodness, Barrie! This all sounds amazing. I’m going to find RR’s pad Thai recipe. Can’t believe made homemade egg rolls, too 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉
Soups with either veg stock or chicken stock and whatever vegetables are needing to be used. Discounted cartons of Butternut squash packed as noodles or diced for stir-fry, “spaghetti” or added to soups.
Love all of this, Chela 🙂 🙂 🙂
Hi Ali! I have Chrissy Teigen’s cabbage and chicken salad on the docket as well as whole roasted cauliflower this week. I love sauteed greens too. Our farmers market still has tons of Swiss chard so I’ve been using it a lot, sometimes as a side, or on toast (beans and greens!), or as part of a dumpling (ricotta and greens gnudi)….I’m glad you all are doing well!
So funny: I made whole roasted cauliflower this week, too. Chicken and cabbage salad sounds great. I bought a whole chicken at the market yesterday, and I was going to simply roast it, but I might have to change directions now 🙂
Ali you are such an inspiration, it’s hard to believe you ever run out of ideas 😊. I have a winter CSA, so have been eating lots of greens (salad, sautéed, and in stir fries). Your post on slow cooker chickpeas and polenta inspired me to revisit your recipe for broth chickpeas and spaghetti squash and try those chickpeas (which are amazing) over polenta (which I made in the instapot for the first time) and sautéed Swiss chard – so good.
I’ve also been baking and trying lots of different whole grains and whole grain flours. Some time back you explained why whole wheat flour from the grocery store might not be as healthy as we’ve been lead to believe. That set me down a path which led to me buying a Mockmill and milling my own flour. So much fun and really a very small extra step when baking (unless you need or want to sift out some of the bran). Anyway I’ve been swapping in different flours and upping the percentage of whole grain flour, having a blast and living the results. Just tried a recipe for rye brownies from Southern Ground – delicious! Have also been swapping buckwheat flour for most of the flour in my banana bread and used various whole grain flours for half or more of the flour in all my Christmas cookies. No complaints from anyone! I also make your multigrain bread regularly and last time milled both the flour and cereal mix. Sorry for the long ramble and thank you again for the inspiration!!
Oh my goodness, Cathy! Thank you for sharing all of this. I have yet to go down the home-milled flour route, but you are inspiring me to think about adding a Mockmill to my arsenal of kitchen tools. It’s so great to hear about all of your successes with the milled flour. I think what I worry about is all of the trial and error I’ll have to go through to get my recipes to work with home-milled flour but you make it sound so easy. And I can imagine what flavor (not to mention nutrition) these flours are adding to all of your baked goods. Fun!! So great to hear about the multigrain bread, too 🙂 🙂 🙂
I tried this recipe yesterday – so yummy – first time I cooked escarole, usually I eat it raw as a salad.
Whenever I feel uninspired in the kitchen and am too lazy to stand around in the kitchen for a long time, I go back to the “Roasting tin” cookbooks from Rukmini Iyer – so many easy and yummy recipes. https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/chefs/rukmini_iyer
Wonderful to hear Barbara! And thanks so much for sharing Rukmini’s book. Going to check it out. It looks fabulous 💕💕💕
Thank you for the escarole reminder! We had it last night and was so good! I had it with white beans and my husband had with pasta. Delicious! We have been cooking our way through weekday vegetarian by Jenny Rosenstrach – black bean butternut squash tacos and green enchiladas are our favorites. Quick, easy and tasty. Also just made your pumpkin bread for the first time in a while (yum!) and peasant bread at least once a week (quinoa flax bread was a recent hit in our house) and lots of lentil soup. Thank you again for all your great recipes
So great to hear all of this, Melissa! I love TWV — it has been a constant source of inspiration for the past 6 months. Yay for pumpkin bread, peasant bread, and quinoa flax bread, too. Thanks for writing!
I hear you! This time a year is not very inspiring… I made sautéed Swiss chards yesterday for dinner, as my kids recently discovered they love chards. I don’t stem them though, I just chop the stems and let them cook a bit before I add the greens. Also I used duck fat instead of oil and it was GOOD. I’ve never tried cooked escarole… next time! Thanks for your great recipes 🙂
Oh my goodness: Chard sautéed in duck fat sounds outstanding! And how nice that your kids will eat it. Mine have yet to welcome the dark leafy green family of vegetables 🙂 Thank you for your kind words 💕
It’s hard to believe that so simple a recipe can yield such stellar results. I love to serve this with fish–the bright green color of the greens sits well against the fish. Escarole will turn military green when lemon is added, so I serve a wedge of lemon on the side for anyone who wants a little citrusy flavor. But, that said, the greens are flavorful as is. Chicory, if you can find it, is another wonder prepared this way.
Yum!!! One of my favorites all year round!
I love making your Marcella’s beans recipe and adding wilted escarole and baby spinach, with some peasant bread & garlic butter, the best! 🙂
YUM!! So nice to hear this, Kim 🙂 🙂 🙂 Hope all is well 💕💕💕💕💕