Remove the green outer leaves of the escarole and discard or reserve for another use. Trim off any dark-green tips and cut off the root end. Then cut or tear the leaves into bite-size pieces (you should have about 12 cups).
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
Put the garlic in a mortar, add a pinch of salt, and pound to a paste with a pestle. Or mince and then mash to a paste with the side of a chef’s knife. In a small bowl, combine half of the garlic with 3 Tbs. of the olive oil.
Put the bread on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the garlic oil to coat evenly. Spread the bread out, season lightly with salt, and bake until crisp and light golden-brown outside and tender inside, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool on the baking sheet.
Pound or mince the anchovies to a paste. In a small bowl, combine the anchovy paste with the remaining garlic paste and the vinegar. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil and stir in the olives. Taste with a leaf of escarole and season the vinaigrette with more vinegar or salt if necessary.
Put the escarole in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Gently toss the salad with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the greens. Taste and add more salt or vinaigrette if necessary. Add the croutons and toss again. Gently transfer the salad to a platter or individual serving plates, evenly distributing the croutons that may have fallen to the bottom of the bowl. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette on the salad and serve.
Long, thin shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano would make a delicious addition to the salad.
Serve the salad alongside seared lamb rib chops seasoned with a little rosemary, salt, and pepper.
nutrition information (per serving):
17, Fat Calories
150, Saturated Fat
11, Monounsaturated Fat
22, Polyunsaturated Fat
Photo: Scott Phillips