(Cranberry) Beans and Greens with Cod
A one-pound bag of Rancho Gordo Vallarta beans has been lying in my rice-and-beans drawer for a good while. Rancho Gordo, of Napa, California grows “New World Specialty Food featuring glorious old-fashion vegetables.” That’s what they say of themselves. I know them for their stall at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, which features heirloom beans with intriguing names such as; Runner Cannellini, Anasazi, Ojo de Cabra (eye of the goat), Yellow Indian Woman and Eye of the Tiger; among their 28 varieties. Vallarta is a small bean, a rich mahogany color, about the size of a navy bean. When I bought them, the Rancho Gordo folks said I could cook them like a navy bean.
Sauteed Beans and Greens
The Farmers Market is in a winter mode; root vegetables, citrus, beans and greens. I saw some fantastic mustard greens at the Mariquita Farm stand, and knowing I had a stash of beans, snapped them up. I love beans and greens as a comfort food side dish to have on hand. They are good with any kind of porkâ€”maybe especially hamâ€”but I like them best with fish. I got turned on to that idea in the 90’s with the recipe, Cod with Radicchio, White Beans, and Lemon Vinaigrette from Danny Meyer and Michael Romano’s Union Square Café Cookbook. (That is one of my Top Five cookbooks. We had dinner at the Union Square Café in New York in â€˜02, and I dragged along my tattered, food-stained copy to ask for the authors to sign it. They weren’t there on that Sunday evening, but the sous chef, Ted Habber, was good enough to sign it for me.) Who knew you could combine fish (protein), beans (starch) and radicchio (vegetable) in one glorious dish?
Since, I have collected about a dozen beans and greens recipesâ€”including soupsâ€”but I thought I’d check out the Rancho Gordo website for maybe a new twist, and I found it.
This recipe starts like most any bean recipe; cook the beans. The twist is that the beans are then sautéed in olive oil with onions and garlic for flavor, then the greens are added, no chicken stock is used, so this is vegetarian, if you’re so inclined.
Sautéed Beans and Greens
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Sautéed White Beans and Greens for my equipment and the beans I had on hand. Heidi Swanson recently was the guest at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market’s Meet the Chef series and used some Ranch Gordo beans as part of her demonstration.
1 lb. beans (recipe calls for Runner Cannellini, a big bean, I used Vallarta, you could use store-bought Cannellini, but dry beans, not canned)
3 T+. salt for the bean water
3T extra-virgin olive oil + more to drizzle
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, loosely chopped
1 big bunch of greens (trimmed, loosely chopped chard or mustard greens, etc)
Freshly shaved Parmesan
More salt and pepper to taste
I like to use the Cook’s Illustrated method for cooking beans, it seems to me to be the easiest, quickestâ€”beans aren’t pre-soakedâ€”and most reliable: Put 1 pound of dried beans in a heavy pot with 12 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are almost tender (about an hour, taste to tell). Remove the pot from the heat, add salt, cover, and let stand until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain the beans; reserve the liquid. Spread the beans out on a drying rack or cookie sheet to cool. Reserve half the beans in the cooking water for another use (bean soup is always good).
Getting your beans golden and tasty:
Get out your biggest skillet. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the beans in a single layer to the skillet. Toss a bit to coat the beans with the olive oil. Let the beans sit there and get brown on one side before tossing to brown the other sides. The beans should be golden and a bit crunchy on the outsides and soft and creamy on the insides. Salt to taste at this point.
Add the onions and garlic to the pan, toss it up a bit, and cook for a minute or two, or until the onions soften up. Add the greens, and stir for a minute or two until they begin to wilt. Remove from heat and season again to taste with a generous dose of salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of top quality extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with freshly shaved Parmesan.
If you don’t have a big enough skillet — just make the recipe in two batches. Or save 1/2 the beans for another use.