Escarole Soup (with Lemon and Orzo)

This recipe came to me from my mother, in a binder of her favorites she compiled for me as a Christmas gift. ¬†I’m not sure where she found it. ¬†She subscribes to many food magazines, has dozens of cookbooks, and always has an eye out for new delights. ¬†If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably from Rachel Ray. ¬†I added a couple of twists, so we’ll say “adapted from” the latter.

Soup Weather

It’s escarole soup time because the nights are getting colder¬†and I have a ¬†tenacious escarole in my garden that survived the harvest of my early season crop. ¬†It was so prettily ruffled and vivid green I did not have¬†the heart pick it.

projects&promises|escarole soup with lemon and orzo
the September escarole

However, after all this time¬†it’s just a bit¬†too bitter and tough for a tossed salad. ¬†I’ve read in Deborah Madison’s gorgeous ‚̧ book¬†Vegetable Literacy about how cooking will mellow the bitterness of escarole so I’ve been eager to try this:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, sliced thin or diced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced thin, or minced
  • 1 head escarole, rinsed thoroughly, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (more or less, to taste)
  • 4 cups chicken broth (homemade or your favorite brand)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup orzo (depending on how thick you like your soup)
  • mini meatballs (homemade or your favorite frozen brand-1/4 oz size)

Heat the olive oil, over medium heat, in a 2 quart pot.  Add the onions and cook until very soft and slightly caramelized.  Add the garlic and cook an extra 1 minute or less (to avoid scorching).   Add the escarole and cook until wilted.

projects&promises|escarole soup with lemon and orzo
wilt the escarole

Add the chicken broth and lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Add the orzo, and cook until tender, according to directions on package.  Finally, add as many meatballs as you like and cook until they are heated through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with grated parmesan and crusty bread.

projects&promises|escarole soup with lemon and orzo

Some notes–

  • you may wish to add less orzo, or even cook it separately and add at table because it lends a lot of starch to the soup (or rather sucks up a lot of the liquid). ¬†Anyway, if you like a broth-y soup, be conservative with the pasta.
  • remove the outermost leaves of the escarole because those are likely to be the toughest and least tasty
  • the lemon juice helps tone down¬†the bitterness of the escarole, and I actually added a bit more than this recipe calls for because my escarole was very (!) mature. ¬†I thought I had gone too far with the acidity, but the richness of the meatballs and the parmesan pulled it all back together