Escarole, Bacon and White Bean Soup

Escarole, Bacon and White Bean Soup
The best escarole thrives in cool weather. Sometimes resembling curly lettuce, the size can vary and be as large as a soccer ball. Escarole can simply be sautéed with olive oil and garlic until tender and pairs it well with roasted pork or broiled fish. You can also add it to soups, salads and hot cooked pasta. We happen to love adding white beans (and bacon!) to our escarole to form a delicious soup that can be made quickly and enjoyed for lunch or dinner. Different variations of this recipe include varying the herbs, omitting the bacon, adding couscous, changing the white bean (we like cannellini beans) and adding red pepper flakes.

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 10 ounces slab bacon, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
• 2 medium onions, finely chopped
• 1 large shallot, finely chopped
• 1 Green garlic, minced
• 2 quarts homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
• 1 pound dried white beans, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed or 2 cans store bought white beans
• 3 large thyme sprigs
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
• 1 head escarole, cut crosswise into strips

Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add bacon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate.
Add onions and shallot to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute more.
Return bacon to pan. Stir in stock, beans, thyme, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt; season with pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Uncover, and cook until beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours more. If using canned beans you can omit the extra cook time.
Stir in escarole. Cook 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

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