Thursday, May 2, 2013
Remember my avowed obsession with beans? I’m always buying them, especially when I travel. They can be just plain and ordinary fave from Puglia, or else fancy haricots trabais from France. If I can manage to fit them into my suitcase, home they come.
I’m always especially successful ‘foraging’ for beans at the Salone del Gusto. The Salone is divided into regions and each one always has new and wonderful beans (always on the verge of extinction of course ) and never before seen (at least by me).
Me being me, I usually make 90% of my decisions based on what something looks like. And some of the most beautiful beans I’d ever seen were these fagioli Badda di Polizzi I got at the last Salone. Their graphic black and white coloring drew me across the hugely crowded Salone and I found myself just staring at them, then running my hands through the pile they had on display.
The small, round beans come from Sicily and what looked black to me, was actually a very dark shade of violet. I immediately bought a bag, even though they were ridiculously expensive. But I’ve come to realize over the years when a semi-lost heritage bean turns up at the Salone, in the first years they are very expensive. This is because the production is so low. I justify my shelling out my euros because I know that this will enable the producer to go back home, produce larger crops which will eventually bring down the prices.
So while the farmer went home with my euros, I went home with my beans.
And only just now got around to cooking them up. I brought the precious bag up to Todi with us a few weeks ago, not really knowing what I’d end up doing with it. Since their were four of us, and the bag was small, I thought that adding in some greens would help stretch out the goodness.
Luckily there were two Swiss chard survivors from the winter garden.
The beans got boiled up in a large pot of salted water, while I wilted the greens with garlic, onion and a long pour of olive oil.
Like all beans, these ones lost their brilliant zebra-like markings, becoming a mottled shade of rose. The only problem with them is that they tasted incredible. Extremely sweet and creamy, almost as if I had added sugar to the water instead of salt.
Why is this a problem you ask? Because I wish I had bought more. They were that good. But on the positive side, I think this recipe will work just as well with any beans and greens mixture. So have a go at it, and let me know how your version turns out.
beans + greens
200gr / 1.5 cups dried beans (cannelini or borlotti would work well)
6 cups Swiss chard, Washed and chopped into pieces
1 medium size onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp salt
Soak the beans for a few hours, or overnight. Drain.
Bring a large pot of water to boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt. Then add beans. Lower heat and cook until tender. How long you cook the beans will depend on the age and dryness of the beans.
In the meantime, add ollive oil to a pot and heat to medium heat and then add onion. Once onion has wilted, add the garlic and 1 tsp salt and stir for a few minutes. Add all the Swiss chard, stuffing it down into the pot. It should have enough moister to cook itself, but if it seems dry, add a ladle full of the bean cooking water. Cover and let cook until completely wilted.
Take the lid off the pot, turn the heat to high and let all the moisture boil away from the greens. Add the drained beans, and a ladle full of the bean water. Stir and let simmer for about 8 minutes to let the flavors blend. I like this on the dry side, letting the bean and vegetable water completely boil away. I actually let the beans start to brown a bit, with the starchy bean water forming a semi-caramelized crust.
Again, play around with the beans and greens. Swiss chard is great, but also spinach or kale. But do use dried beans, not canned, it will make a world of difference.