Long before I took the temp job, I'd been hearing stories from a neighbour who worked there about the secretary who typed with two pencils to preserve her manicure, and how she said, "escarole" account. She was exactly as depicted, complete with escarole accounts.
Lynn, Massachusetts. Need I say more? No, I guess I really needn't. So let's talk escarole soup instead.
I was up until one in the morning watching three tedious hours of what I think was supposed to be surrealist film making without the really cool stuff like slicing open eyeballs (at least not literally-metaphorically, OK maybe). I felt somewhat ill all weekend, but combined with the lack of sleep, disgust at having lost sleep, and being in a generally pissy mood, I knew I wouldn't be cooking anything terribly challenging. I wanted soup-and lots of it. I had a large bunch of escarole in the fridge. I now have a gallon of escarole soup. Don't you love how that works? It was very nearly as simple as it sounds, with a few small steps along the way.
Before I get to the recipe proper, I want to talk about cheese rinds. My husband thinks this is simply being parsimonious, but there is an actual reason (other than being cheap) to save the rinds off hard cheeses like Parmesan-you can toss them into a pot of escarole soup for flavouring. Sure, they look a bit gross when you fish them out after cooking (you'll want to pull those out) but no one is going to see the bloated, blubbery cheese rinds, whereas they will taste the difference it makes in your soup. Yes, I do feel self-satisfied knowing I've utilised every last bit of a wedge of cheese. Look, some people have actual meaningful accomplishments in life to get all smug about-leave me my damn cheese rinds, OK?
Right. So in those nasty old rinds go, to your beautiful soup. I had every intention of making my own noodles as well, but when I saw that half bag of bow tie noodles in the pantry from God only knows when, I thought, "Hell, yes!" and in they went. Sure, the soup is nicer if you cook the noodles in another pot and add the cooked noodles to the soup-but I didn't. I'm not a nice woman, and neither is my soup. Here, nibble a cheese rind and shut up.
Escarole soup should really have chicken, and I wasn't really sure how I wanted to compensate for that in a meatless version. I considered getting some of those imitation chicken strips in the vacuum pack, but instead I opened a tin of chick peas and called it a day. I'm not feeling well, remember?
It turned out wonderfully. I can truthfully say I prefer it to escarole soup made with chicken. I still feel like crud, but at least I have a good supply of soup on hand.
You Will Need:
8-12 cups rich vegetable broth (always best to have more on hand if needed)
(about) 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
6 large carrots, chopped
5 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 bay leaves
1 large bunch of escarole, trimmed and chopped
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed, drained and skins removed
3-4 handfuls dried pasta
Rinds from Parmesan or other hard cheeses
In a large pot, heat the oil and cook the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaves until carrots are softened. Add the escarole a handful at a time and stir-in as it wilts. Add the chickpeas and Parmesan rinds. Add the broth until it covers the vegetables by several inches. Adjust salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta. Reduce to simmer, skim any foam that rises, and cover leaving about 2 inches for steam to escape. Cook about an hour.