We’ve had a really great yield of escarole this season. Escarole is a fun green, it looks like lettuce but has a mild bitter flavor. It can be enjoyed lightly cooked or raw and though you might scratch your head at first thinking of recipes it is surprisingly versatile. We’ve enjoyed it in soups, salads, and sautés. Traditionally beans and greens are made with white beans or cannelini beans, but I’m using a nice heirloom variety called Scarlet Runner Beans. I found these beans in the bulk section at Greenstar Co-op in Ithaca, and I’m certain that many natural food stores in the area carry different varieties of beans. Keeping dried beans and whole grains on hands is a great way to supplement your CSA, and trying new varieties can help shake up your normal recipe routine. A few weeks back I tried heirloom Christmas Lima Beans with fennel and it was a great dish. If I hadn’t been perusing the bulk section for something new, I might not have come up with this combination. Bulk sections of supermarkets are a nice way to try new things, because you can just buy enough for one recipe. It’s not a lot of commitment, inexpensive and it won’t take up too much room in your pantry.
In the farm kitchen we always use pressure cookers to cook beans. It’s inexpensive to purchase dry beans, and there is much less packaging and waste involved. (of course it doesn’t hurt to keep a can of beans around for emergency quick dinners) Soak your beans overnight, or boil and soak one hour if you’re in a rush like I often am. Check out this post on pressure cooking beans for tips and suggestions on pressure cooking. 9 minutes was the perfect time for these beans, and I let the pressure drop on it’s own. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, feel free to cook beans on the stove top or some people use a crockpot. You can also sub canned beans, I haven’t found scarlet runner beans in a can, so you might want to try cannelini or navy beans if going that route.
Cook the beans with a dash of oil and a smashed garlic clove. The jury is out on whether adding salt during cooking prevents the beans from cooking all the way, I’ve had under cooked beans before so I always salt at the end. While the beans are cooking wash the greens and tear into bite size pieces. The greens don’t need to be dried, and letting some water cling to the edges will help them cook down.
If you cook the beans from dry, save some of the bean cooking liquid for cooking dish. You can also use chicken or vegetable stock. Lightly sauté the garlic in olive oil and add the beans with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper if you want a hint of spicy. Simmer for a few minutes then add the greens on top of the beans but don’t stir them in. Cover and cook until greens are steamed. Stir together and season with salt and pepper. If you use canned beans or cook the beans in advance this comes together in about 15 minutes! Serve with a crusty bread or rice to soak up the bean juices.
Beans and Greens
2 1/2 cups soaked scarlet runner beans or other cooked or canned beans
1 head of escarole, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
3 cloves garlic, 2 minced, 1 smashed for cooking with beans
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of crushed red pepper, optional
Cook beans. Soak beans overnight or cover beans in 10 cups of water and bring to a boil then let sit for one hour. Drain beans and add to pressure cooker, add one smashed garlic clove and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook at high pressure for 8 – 10 minutes and let pressure drop naturally. (Follow directions for your pressure cooker if it has different directions) Conversely, cook on the stove top or used canned beans.
In a sauté pan or stock pot heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add garlic and beans with 1/2 cup of bean cooking liquid or stock. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper over beans and simmer for 5 minutes. Add escarole on top of beans, but don’t stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until greens are lightly steamed. Stir greens into beans, taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.