Soak the dried beans overnight, then drain them.
Bring the water to a boil in a large soup pot while you wash, trim and slice the escarole.
Add the drained beans, bay leaves and ! Tablespoon olive oil to the soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook partially covered about 45 minutes. (If you're using kale, add it after 30 minutes.)
Add the escarole and salt and cook another 20-30 minutes.
In a small skillet or saucepan, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil and add the garlic slices and red pepper.Cook, stirring, about 2-3 minutes until the garlic is golden. Add a lade or two of soup broth to the skillet and simmer a minute or two, then pour everything back into the soup pot.
Taste for salt and add more if needed. Simmer another 10 minutes or so.
Serve with grated Parmesan.