Escarole is sturdy enough to wash a few hours in advance. Once you spin it dry just put it in a bowl, cover it with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture, and leave it in the fridge. May not seem like much but when you’re throwing a dinner party, any steps you can cross off your prep list in advance are key.
For the vinaigrette
For the pecans
For the concord grapes
For the salad
1 head escarole, leaves carefully separated, rinsed and spun dry
1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese
For the vinaigrette:
Mix together all the ingredients. Taste it and adjust the seasoning as neededwith healthy pinch of salt and pepper. I always taste by dipping in a small leaf of the greens on which my dressing will be served so I know how it’ll all come together later. The finished vinaigrette can be kept at room temp for a few hours until you need it.
For the pecans:
Pecans scream “fall” to me, so I melt the butter in a sauté pan, add a pinch of salt, pepper, sugar and cayenne and then throw in the pecans. Cook them until fragrant, then spread the nuts out onto a baking sheet to cool. Again, a step you can do in advance. Once cool, these nuts will keep in an airtight container at room temp for several days (I prefer to store them in tin or glass versus plastic; they stay much crunchier).
For the grapes:
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the grapes on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast them until they just start to blister and wrinkle, about 7 minutes.
While your grapes are roasting, toss just enough dressing into the bowl of escarole to lightly coat the leaves. I always toss salad with (impeccably clean) hands as it is really the only way to know if the leaves are properly coated with vinaigrette. There should be none of it pooling at the bottom of your bowl so start sparingly and add more only if you need it. Toss in a few handfuls of pecans and crumble in a chunk of gorgonzola cheese, if you want. The rich unctuousness of the creamy blue cheese gives this salad a bit of luxury that you can certainly skip but, hey, escarole is so good for you I think you can give a little and toss in the cheese.
When the grapes are done and still warm, separate them from their stems and very gently mix them into the salad. They will wilt the escarole slightly, which actually serves the greens well so don’t think you’re doing anything wrong here. Serve the salad immediately, and enjoy.
Keywords: escarole salad