When people think of Central New York, they rarely think of specialty food. Unless you live there, you probably wouldn’t know that Syracuse has some of the best barbecue in the northeast, apple fritters are worth attending those god-awful apple festivals for and that Utica Greens even exist.
Josh is from Westmoreland (a Utica suburb), which is where I was introduced to Utica Greens. We ordered them one day – along with wings of course- from Knuckleheads, one of the only restaurants in Westmo. I was immediately obsessed: garlicky spicy sautéed greens mixed with breadcrumbs, cheese and prosciutto. I wasn’t, however, obsessed with how I felt after cleaned out the styrofoam takeout container almost by myself. Of course, I set out to create a healthy version of Utica Greens.
This is our second month of our “Take Two” series, in which we create two versions of one recipe: one vegan, one not (be sure to check out our first installment, Moroccan Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie). Here, both recipes for Utica Greens are gluten-free and healthier than the Knuckleheads version. One contains bacon and parmesan (remember to buy from quality sources!), while the other uses shiitake “bacon” and almond-nutritional-yeast parmesan “cheese.” No wonky, soy ingredients here; just real food substitutes.
WHY IT’S HEALTHY// Escarole lettuce is chock-full of nutrition. It contains fiber, vitamins, such as vitamin A and K (100% and 50% of RDA, respectively), minerals and antioxidants. The health benefits of peppers can be read about in our post Lamb Meatballs with Tahini Sauce (Fajita-Style).//
- 1 large head escarole
- 2 slices of bacon, chopped or 8 oz shiitake mushroom "bacon" (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 long Italian hot peppers, seeded and julienned
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned (optional)
- ½ cup breadcrumbs (I used gluten-free)
- ½ cup parmesan cheese or almond/nutritional yeast parmesan "cheese" (see notes)
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- Thoroughly clean and rinse the escarole and chop into large pieces.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat and add garlic, crushed red pepper and chopped bacon (if using shiitake bacon, don't add yet) and sauté for 3-5 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add washed escarole, seeded Italian peppers, bell pepper (if using) and throughly mix with garlic oil mixture about 3 minutes.
- Add broth and allow mixture to simmer until the peppers are tender, about 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and carefully add the breadcrumbs, cheese (or "cheese") and shiitake bacon, if using, tossing gently until blended.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl mix 8 ounces of thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms (stems discarded) with 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread on baking sheet in a single layer and bake until crispy, about 40 - 45 minutes.
Almond Nutritional Yeast "Cheese"
Add ½ cup raw almonds, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast and ½ teaspoon of salt to a blender and blend until the consistency of sand.