My mom has made Beans and Greens for as long as I can remember. The version I grew up with has it’s roots in the cooking of my Italian great-grandmother, and is both delicious, and a wonderfully easy dish that I make all year. Growing up my mom alway used spinach (the original recipe called for escarole), and occasionally used frozen spinach, making it a super hearty dish perfect for dipping bread into.I like to get a bit more creative and use what’s in season if I can. In the spring and summer I love to go by what I can find at the farmers’ market– dandelion greens are great because of their bitterness, as is broccoli rabe, and chard (especially red chard) is awesome, and of course spinach is always a classic. In the winter I use mostly different kinds of kale because it grows just about all year, and will become quite tender when cooked down for bit.
While this is not entirely the beans and greens I grew up with, it is certainly close. I don’t like to cook my greens down all the way, instead leaving a bit of crispness in the stems, and I no longer top them with a generous amount of Pecorino Romano (but you are more than welcome to if you so choose). I do use the same generous amount of olive oil, and a bit of kick with some garlic, red pepper flakes, and some lemon.
One of the things that makes this dish so simple is that canned beans work quite well here, so there’s no need to plan too far ahead. If you choose to leave the stems of your greens on, like I do, then your prep time is shortened as well. Cutting your greens into thin ribbons across the whole leaf helps them to cook evenly, making them a bit like a leafy green pasta.
For a more filling meal I like to serve this over polenta, but a nice piece of toast is the perfect accompaniment if I’m pressed for time, or not quite as hungry. One of my favorites, though, is just a whole bowl of beans and greens on their own, with perhaps a piece of ciabatta to soak up all of the garlicky olive oil at the end.
This recipe makes three generous servings, but you can stretch it by doubling the beans, and adding more greens to taste. It also keeps well for a day or so as leftovers, though if you use a lot of garlic you probably shouldn’t take it into work.
• 13-15 oz can of cannelloni beans, drained. (or equivalent amount of freshly cooked)
• 1-2 bunches of red chard, chopped into fine ribbons
• 1 green bell pepper, chopped julienned
• 1-3 cloves of garlic, minced
• pinch of red pepper flakes to taste
• 1/2 lemon
• Several tablespoons of good olive oil
• Salt and pepper to saste
The two main ingredients to an easy weeknight meal
1. Cover the bottom of large pan with olive oil and heat over medium. If you can, try to use one with high sides, or even large pot- it will make stirring a lot easier when you first add the greens.
2. Add the garlic to the oil, being carful not to let it burn.
3. Once the garlic has softened, add the bell pepper,red pepper flakes, and the beans. Heat until the beans have absorbed most of the oil, and there isn’t much liquid in the pan.
4. Add a bit more olive oil, then top with the greens. This is when you will be glad to have a pan with high sides. Cook the greens down until they have about half of their original volume in the pan. Squeeze the lemon of the greens if desired, and add any salt or pepper. If you notice that it seems a bit dry, add more olive oil.
The greens just before adding the lemon
5. Serve over polenta, with some good, crusty bread, or on its own. I like to add final drizzle of olive oil and a squad of lemon to bring all of the flavors out.
Enjoy! One of my favorite things about this recipe is how easy it is to alter based on what’s available and in season, so feel free to get creative!