Greens n’ Beans
Lettuce greens, spinach, and kale planted as starts in the spring will be ready really quick and are likely the first vegetable available in the early spring garden. They are versatile and can be combined with dried grains and legumes in a number of ways. Indicated by the lack of beans in grocery stores lately, I am going to conclude some of ya’ll have ’em and assume that a recipe using beans might be useful because ya can’t have too many bean recipes. The variety of green used can be a quicker cooking green such as spinach, arugula, Swiss chard or a longer cooking variety such as kale, collards, or mustard greens. In a pinch you can even use Dandelion leaves. Dried beans are best but canned beans will work too for this recipe. Lighter colored beans are preferable as they take to reacting really well with the browning butter, which imparts a nutty flavor into the beans. Pinto and kidney beans work fine too, although smaller sized beans such as black beans and small red beans are not great for this recipe. There is a great heirloom bean company that has dozens of interesting varieties called Ranch Gordo, I recommend checking them out for those that want to geek out on beans.
Greens n’ Beans
1 cup dried Navy, Cannellini, Pinto, Flagolet, Great Northern Beans
1 shallot or small onion, minced (save the butt)
a bunch of kale or other greens, chopped
1-2 tbsp butter or sub other cooking fat
salt and cracked pepper
If using dried beans, place in a bowl the night before and cover with water. Soaking the morning of works too or not soaking them at all but they tend to cook faster and a little more evenly after soaking for at least some time.
When ready to cook, add beans and soaking juices to a small pot and add enough additional water to cover beans by at least 2 inches. Add a pinch of salt and the butt of the onion you hopefully saved from before. Sometimes I throw a garlic glove and bay leaf in there as well.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes uncovered before turning heat to low, then cover and continue to cook for 45 minutes (about the cooking time minimum) more before checking. Just remove a bean with a fork, let it cool and taste. Add as much additional cooking time as needed to finish but do not overcook if possible, they tend to average between 60-75 minutes.
When beans are fully cooked, ladle out and set aside 1 cup of bean cooking liquid (important) and strain out and discard the rest.
Add 1 tbsp of butter to a skillet and bring heat to med-high. Once butter is melted and just barely starting to brown, add beans and a shake of salt. Shake skillet to get the beans settled in place and then let the beans rest there for awhile. Check them by flipping over a bean to look for browning. We want nice brown colorization on them before shaking them up more and finishing them off by cooking just a few minutes more. Remove from skillet and set aside on a plate.
Add a little more cooking fat, up to about a tablespoon to the skillet. Add minced onion and let begin to brown at medium heat. Add in your chopped greens and another sprinkle of salt. If you are using a faster cooking green (spinach, etc) they will only need to cook for a minute or two but the heartier ones (kale, etc) will take up to 10-15 minutes, so reduce heat and let them cook slowly. Optional, add a squirt of Apple Cider or Red vinegar to the greens as they cook.
When greens are ready, add beans back in and some of the reserved bean broth. The dish will begin to soak it back up to an extent so, shake skillet and add as much of the remaining liquid as you can get away with. Remove from heat to cool before serving.
Optional, grated Parmesan or fine bread crumbs are nice additions if you have them on hand. Season with more salt and black pepper as desired.