Lettuce is great, but sometimes it’s just a bit, well…boring. Escarole, on the other hand, has a pleasant, bitter taste, that when paired with the right food partners, is absolutely amazing.

Escarole comes in a range of sizes, and the juicy, crunchy white middle ribs and heart are bittersweet. These, and the lighter, inner green leaves are the best parts for raw preparations. The outermost dark green leaves are bitter and tough, so are best kept for cooking.

Want to know the three most compelling reasons to try escarole? Read on to find out.

1. Versatility

Eat it raw, braise, grill or sauté it. Rip it up and add to soups, or dress raw leaves with a garlicky vinaigrette or creamy dip. Use the inner leaves for raw preparations, and the outer ones for cooking.

2. Lots of Ingredients Pair with Escarole

Try it with any of the following foods and prepare to be amazed:

Almonds Apples Arugula Apple cider vinegar Balsamic vinegar Beets Blue cheeses Butter Butternut squash Cannellini beans Cream Celery root Currants Fennel Feta Fontina cheese Garlic Goat cheese Gruyere Hazelnuts Hazelnut oil Honey Lemon Manchego cheese Olive oil Onion Orange Oregano Parmesan Pasta Pears Pine nuts Potatoes Raisins Red pepper Rice Shallots Stone fruits Thyme Walnuts Red and white wine vinegars

3. Escarole Goes Great with Raw Fruit

Escarole pairs beautifully with apples, pears and persimmons, but try it with citrus and stone fruits too.

Here’s how to make an escarole and fruit salad:

Whisk together 1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar, 2 peeled and smashed garlic cloves, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Let this marinate briefly, and whisk in 1 tablespoon honey, (or 1 tablespoon walnut oil or hazelnut oil), and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add some minced shallots if you like.

Add more salt and pepper to taste, and remove the garlic cloves. Toss torn escarole leaves with the vinaigrette, sliced apples, persimmons or pears, and add toasted hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds. Top with crumbled Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Manchego cheese.

You could also try warming up the vinaigrette, or adding your own favorite one, along with your favorite nuts and fruit.