Although escarole looks like lettuce, it’s actually a type of endive, which accounts for its bittersweet and slightly peppery flavor. What makes the green such an asset in the kitchen is its versatility — escarole is sturdy enough to braise or bake until meltingly tender but equally delicious served blanched or raw and crisp.
Look for full heads with more tender, light-green center leaves than dark outer ones. The bunch should be smooth and blemish-free with no brown tips. Trim off the base to separate the leaves and wash under cold running water. Dry well, then wrap in several paper towels, seal in a bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Quartered heads can be brushed with oil and quickly grilled. Hardy outer leaves can be braised or chopped and used in stir-fries or sautes. Mix tender inner leaves with romaine to add flavor to a Caesar salad. Stir a couple handfuls of torn escarole into a soup or stew; it pairs especially well with white beans and sausage.