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Sunday, May 19

Gapers Block

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Mob boss Sam Giancana was not a likable person. The man who orchestrated the infamous Valentine's Day Massacre was a ruthless hitman who rose to power through brute force, killing most of those who got in his way. He was assassinated in the basement of his Oak Park home while making himself dinner, a meal I make on a fairly regular basis. And now you can, too.

I clipped the recipe out of a New Yorker article on Giancana years ago, so long ago I can't remember exactly when or even the exact context for the recipe. All I have left is a quote from Antoinette Giancana, his daughter -- "What I never could understand is why people say Italians are so romantic when they eat all that garlic." -- that I for some reason left in the clipping I pasted into my recipe book. That's it. She wrote a book about him, so chances are the article was a profile wrapped around a review -- but that's not the point. The dish is excellent, and can be prepared in no time as long as you have the ingredients or suitable substitutes.

1½ lbs. Italian sausage
3-4 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch escarole
1 can Great Northern beans, with juice
1 or 2 chili peppers
3-4 T. dry white wine
grated Romano cheese

Prep the escarole by removing the stems and any thick veins. Add olive oil to a hot skillet and brown the sausage on both sides. Remove the sausage and add the garlic; sauté but don't brown. Add the sausage back in along with the beans and their juice, and let cook on medium-high for about 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to medium-low, add the greens and cover, simmering for about 10 minutes. Uncover and stir in the pepper and wine. Let it simmer a minute or two, then serve in bowls with the grated cheese over top.

About substitutions: Escarole can be hard to find, although Caputo's in Elwood Park and other Italian groceries will likely carry it. You could use swiss chard or even spinach instead. Can't find Great Northern beans? Any white bean, such as cannellini, will work, as long as the juice isn't overly sweet -- I don't recommend baked beans, they're both too sweet and too soft. The chili peppers could be replaced with red pepper flakes or left out altogether, and any white wine will do in a pinch -- I've even used dry vermouth to great success.

The whole thing takes less that half an hour to make and you only dirty one pan -- you can't get much easier. And despite its simplicity, it tastes like haute Italian; tell your date you learned it back in your days working the kitchen in that one Taylor Street joint.

Antoinette didn't mention any sides in the article, but I usually make a quick "tomato salad," which is pretty much salad caprese without the mozzarella: Take two or three ripe tomatoes and slice them about a quarter-inch thick. Lay them out in a plate with high edges and drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle oregano and basil over them. Serve with sliced French bread to sop up the juices. It's an equally simple side that adds a fresh, crisp contrast to the warm heartiness of the main course.

Enjoy, and may this meal not be your last.

GB store


Seth Zurer / January 13, 2004 10:25 AM

What is it about the winter months that makes a man's attention turn to greens and beans? Not 48 hours ago I found myself standing in front of a simmering crock of suasage, garlic, rapini and cannellini beans inspired by the rendition at Jimmy's Place in Forest Park. It is so satisfying on a cold winter night to lounge on a couch with a stomach full of legumes...

Brenda / January 13, 2004 6:34 PM

Does this potent concoction have a name?

Andrew / January 14, 2004 10:18 AM

Not really, it's just sausage with escarole and beans.

Cinnamon / January 14, 2004 11:05 AM

We've made the recipe with Swiss chard several times and then finally made it with the escarole we got at Caputo's on Harlem in Elmwood Park and the escarole is so much better. But the Swiss chard was a very good substitute and I bet fresh spinach leaves would also work well.


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