Can I say how much I love beans?
Especially fresh shell beans?
If there’s one vegetable that I’ve fallen in love with in 2013, it’s been beans: from the common string bean to elegant haricot vert, to the first favas of spring to dried heirloom beans. They’re a seriously underrated vegetable that really deserves a permanent place at my table.
They’re lovely enrobed in olive oil, with a touch of garlic or shallot. Simply simmered in lightly salted water and seasoned with herbs and lemon, they’re divine. You can’t go wrong with the New Orleans classic red beans and rice, or Cuban black bean soup. A bit of pork, ham or sausage lends depth; if you’re feeling virtuous, omit them and substitute some slow-cooked onion or mushrooms instead.
We could all use a little more virtue in the world.
Radish Greens and Escarole, with Cranberry Beans and Lemon
Instead of radish greens, you can use turnip or beet greens, or a mix.
1/2 lb. cranberry beans
greens from 1 bunch of radishes, washed and trimmed (reserve the radishes for another use)
1/2 head escarole, washed and trimmed
3-4 tablespoons olive oil + more for garnish
1 yellow onion, peeled, trimmed and thinly sliced
juice of one lemon
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
Each of these pods has anywhere from 3-6 pale green or off-white beans inside. Shell the beans, then simmer them in a pot of lightly salted water for 45 minutes, partly covered, or until the beans are tender. Drain, then set aside. You can reserve the bean cooking liquid for another use.
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil, then add the radish greens and escarole. Bring to a boil, then drain. Lift greens out with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Let the greens cool, then chop them coarsely. Set aside.
Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion to the pan. Sauté the onion over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to turn golden brown. You can speed this process along with a pinch of salt. Without salt, the process will take about 20-25 minutes for the onion to get to the right stage of doneness. Slow-cooking lets your onion mellow and become soft, supple and sweet.
Once the onions are golden brown, stir in the greens and beans. Taste for salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are warmed through. Stir in lemon juice and parsley. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over the vegetables, taste once more for salt and pepper, then serve at once.
Time: About 90 minutes, including prep.
This recipe is sized for 2 people.