Monday, April 11, 2016

Utica Greens

Eating low-carb can most easily and effecively be done by eating nothing but just meat, cheese, and eggs, supported by vegetables. It's quite satisfying, as the proportionately  heavy fat and protein consumption really increases satiety. I can't really overeat if I'm cosuming meat nad cheese, or at any rate, I cannot overeat by volume as much as with carbs. It's far easier to sit and plow through a family size bag of potato chips than binge on a carton of a dozen eggs.

 On occasion, we still crave those traditionally carb-based meals. With the rising popularity of the low-carb lifestyle, the food industry has attempted to come up with lower-carb or lower-GI foods, such as Dreamfield's pasta, Atkins  and South Beach brands of snacks and meals, and many, many more. Many of these items are processed convenience foods, just reformulated to be somewhat lower in GI-spiking carbohydrates.

As in most things, I think it's best to stick with foods that are closest to their natural form, or put another way, foods that are still recognizable as food. Add to that a little fun kitchen ingenuity, and we come up with avocado fries as a substitute for french fries, mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes, and even pulverized pork rinds for bread crumbs, which plays to nice effect in the recipe linked below.

Want more? OK! Everyone's favorite comfort food, mac-n-cheese becomes cauliflower mac and cheese, fettuccine Alfredo is now spaghetti squash Alfredo,  and let's not forget pizza, well, just as with the real item (have you seen John Stewart’s clips on NY vs. Chicago pizza?!) there are many variations, from cauliflower crust pizza, to a crust with almond flour and cheese or psyllium husks, to one of my favorites, low-pepperoni pizza cups.

I’ve gotten pretty adept at adapting  recipes to make them keto-compliant – I love to cook, and I do enjoy a challenge. We had a catered lunch recently with some local favorites: Chicken riggies and Utica greens. To be honest, I've never had chicken riggies which were anything more spectacular than just some chicken, pasta and sauce, but the greens? Utica greens are amazing.

Seeing people dive into the pan of greens whetted my taste for them, and I thought that the bread crumbs could pretty easily be subbed out for a mixture of pork rinds, parm and parsley.

I was right. These were fabulous!

Utica Greens



  • 2 heads of escarole
  • Olive oil
  • 3 slices prosciutto
  • 5 slices pancetta – prob about ¼ cup chopped pancetta
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • Pickled hot peppers, chopped – prob about ¼ cup
  • Red pepper flakes
  • granulated garlic
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parm and/or romano – shredded and grated, probably about ½ cup
  • ½ cup pulverized pork rinds with minced parsley - You can use an equivalent amount of seasoned soft bread crumbs if  you are not low-carbing
  • handful of fresh parsley, minced
  • More cheese for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
  3. Mix together the shredded and grated cheeses, minced parsley, and the pork rind mixture and set aside in a bowl.
  4. While the water is coming to a boil, chop the rough end off the heads of the escarole and let them soak in a large bowl of cold water to get rid of any dirt or grit. Take them out, squeeze out the water and roughly chop the two heads into strips.
  5. Once the water has come to a boil, drop the chopped escarole into the water. Let cook for 7 minutes, then drain and shock the greens into an ice water bath. Once cool, squeeze out as much excess water as you can. Set aside.
  6. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Brown the meats, starting with the pancetta. Once it is starting to brown up, add the chopped prosciutto. When they start to crisp up, add the chopped onion.
  7. When the onion is translucent and soft, add the chopped hot peppers, let cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic, red pepper flakes and granulated garlic.
  8. Once the vegetables are cooked through, add the chopped escarole, breaking up any clumps. Stir and cook until the greens are heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock and cook for 5 minutes.
  9. Spread the greens into an 8 in x 8 in baking dish and top with the bread crumb and cheese mixture, Bake for 15 minutes or until the topping is nicely browned.


  • The heads of escarole I had were on the small side, probably equivalent to one very large head.
  • Next time, I’ll be usiing a lot more chopped hot peppers. The balance between the peppadews and my friend’s homemade pickled Italian hots was nice when I tasted it, but I just needed more of both.

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