Escarole's sturdy, bitter leaves work beautifully with the other ingredients in this vibrant, flavorful salad. This recipe is largely inspired by the escarole salads Tom Valenti, one of NYC’s most talented chefs, features on his winter menus. It's a great side salad; try pairing it with grilled steak or grilled lamb chops. —Beth Maloney
On a large baking sheet, toss the baguette cubes with 2 tablespoons of hazelnut oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toast the croutons for 10 minutes, stirring once, until golden brown.
On a second large baking sheet, toast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes, stirring once, until their papery brown skins just begin to crack. When cool enough to handle, place the nuts in the center of a clean kitchen towel. Gather the towel into a bundle and squeeze so the hazelnuts rub against one another. (The skins will flake off easily. Not all will be removed, but that’s no biggie.) Discard the skins, then roughly chop the hazelnuts.
In a large serving bowl, make a vinaigrette by whisking the remaining 1/4 cup of hazelnut oil with the sherry vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the escarole to the serving bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Add in the croutons, hazelnuts, parmigiano reggiano, red onion, and mint. Toss well and serve.
Note: The better the ingredients, the better the result. Recommended brands include: La Tourangelle Hazelnut Oil, Sanchez Romate Vinagre de Jerez, and Maldon Sea Salt Crystal Flakes.