If given a last meal request, most people would request steak, fried food and creamy desserts. But not this crazy Italian. She'd request Bitter Italian Vegetables sauté. It's a flavorful dish, easy to make and versatile. You can use it as a main meal adding sausage, as I did above, or toss it with penne pasta. It can also serve a side dish or appetizer. It's a family recipe that I've enjoyed years and it's been modified and improved with each family member. Starting simply with just escarole sautéed with garlic and olive oil, it blossomed into this colorful dish that's as beautiful as it is delicious.
Wash all the vegetables and shred them into large leaf chunks. In a large pan, sauté garlic (and hot pepper seed if using it) in the olive oil until the garlic is golden but not brown. Don't burn the garlic. Use a medium to low heat setting. Start adding the escarole* in batches, and turn it over a little at a time, letting the olive oil coat the leafs as they cook. Keep adding the escarole until it's half-cooked and shrunk down some in size, then add the other leafs, the raddichio and endive, etc. Keep turning the leafs over to coat them in oil and not let them over cook. As the vegetables are cooking you prepare the sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives. At this time you can add your 1/4 cup of wine if using it. Cook until they've been covered in oil and heated, but are still firm and colorful. Add tomatoes, olives and pine nuts. It should take about 20-30 minutes total cooking time on medium to low heat. Salt to preferred taste!
*If the escarole is a really large head, it can be steamed down a bit ahead of time in another pot very quickly, and adding it to the pot with the olive oil and garlic with its water, but I find it loses too much color that way. Instead, I use a low heat setting on the sauté pan, and add it in batches, making sure to turn it often as it cooks and shrinks down in size. The color remains brilliant this way.
For tossing with sausage: use an non-spicey Italian sausage sliced in rounds. Brown the sausage in olive oil the same pan first, before you start your vegetables. Remove the sausage. Rather than adding wine last as above, at this time I use the wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up the meat from the bottom of the pan. Then add more oil to the pan, the garlic and hot pepper seed and begin your vegetables. When the vegetables are 3/4 of the way cooked to your liking, add the sausage back into the pot.
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