Stewed escarole or lettuce with olives

Stewed escarole or lettuce with olives

This dish was one of the antipasti I ate one evening in Naples recently. The chef used escarole, the broad-leaved endive, that’s not very bitter and indeed the bitterness wasn’t noticeable; I think Romaine lettuce works just as well, though of course that’s not as authentic. It’s important to use good quality ingredients, particularly the olives – don’t use ready pitted ones.

Serves 4 as an antipasto

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely sliced

2 Escarole or Romaine lettuces, leaves rinsed

12 black olives, such as the Gaeta variety, pitted and cut in half

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and fry the sliced onion over a gentle heat until soft but not coloured – around 10 minutes.

Roll the lettuce leaves up lengthways and slice across the leaves creating 1 to 2cm wide strips. Stir the leaves into the onions and cover the pan for 5 minutes to allow the leaves to steam and collapse. Remove the pan and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so before adding the olives. You’ll find lettuce shrinks dramatically in volume like spinach does.

Adjust for salt – it depends how salty the olives are – and serve warm.

This is also excellent as a topping for crostini.