Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Comfort and Joy - Beans and Greens

Tuscan Beans and Greens - The Source of My Comfort and Joy

All of us have rules of the road when we travel.

You will not get there any faster by refusing to let a car in front of you. The driver gets to select the music. And if there is a Cracker Barrel within a 15 mile radius, you must stop.

I'll admit that most of the food at Cracker Barrel, the chain that specializes in "country" food, is mediocre at best, but I never pass up an opportunity to eat their beans and greens. It's not just comfort; it's comfort and joy. I top my Cracker Barrel white beans with pickle relish and a chopped white onion. Then I crumble my corn bread into the savory, pork-flavored greens. I'm in beans and greens Heaven.

Growing up in West Virginia, a bowl (or two or three) of navy beans cooked with ham hocks was one of my favorite meals. Daddy always said that's why I grew so tall, and he could be right. Beans, dense in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Pair that with a nutrient-dense dark, leafy vegetable, and we're talking power lunch.

It's no wonder that beans and greens have jumped off the menus of humble diners and country homes and onto the entree or appetizer course of some of the country's chicest restaurants. On one of my trips to San Francisco last summer, friends Mary, Kim and I discovered a rustic Tuscan version at Bar Bambino, a hip, happening Mission District Italian restaurant. (Bar Bambino is even featured in the October issue of Gourmet Magazine.)

The greens were swiss chard, sauteed in garlic and onions, and the beans were cannellini. After one bite, I thought, "Where have you been all my life. I could eat you every day."

When I came home and discovered this dish is both delicious and EASY to prepare, I started making it on a regular basis. I prepared a batch of Tuscan Beans and Greens for my lunch today. (If it was dinner, I would have paired it with a nice crisp glass of Pinot Grigio.)

Start with a bunch of swiss chard. I cut out the tough stem that runs the length of the leaf.Chop roughly, one inch across.

Saute' garlic and white onion in about two tablespoons of olive oil. If you like some heat, throw in some hot red pepper flakes.

Add the chopped chard and stir. Saute' for a few minutes, add a fresh chopped tomato, and then turn flame to low and cover for about five minutes. Add a can of cannellini beans (drained) and heat through. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

I purchased my beans at the same place where I buy my Swiss chard, Lake Ave Produce in Pasadena. $1.49 for the chard and .99 for the beans made a delicious lunch, enough for two, for $2.48. What I really need to do is start growing my own chard. (I subsequently found this same brand at another Pasadena Armenian Market for .79)

Bar Bambino served this dish as an appetizer with crostini, but I like to make it my main dish.

This dish meets all my criteria for a great meal: Easy, delicious, nutritious and beautiful. (Click on photo for a closer look.)

Is there any more left?

How do you prepare your beans and greens?


Anonymous said...

I'm making this tomorrow - I have just about enough chard to harvest from the garden - last bit - I should have planted twice the number of plants this year....

The garden varies; last year the cucumbers were abundant and the tomatoes scarce, this year the oposite! Last year so many green beans I was handing out bag fulls, this year, just barely enough.

Susan C said...

Everyone's gardens seem to have taken a hit this summer. Even Russ Parsons, food writer at the LA Times, had little luck with the veggies he planted in his elaborate raised bed gardens.

I hope you enjoy this dish!

Unknown said...

When I was single, this was one of my favorite meals! I made it very similar with the exception of omitting the onion and tomatoes and adding chicken stock to make it more like a soup. I have also used spinach in place of the swiss chard. Yum!

Unknown said...

Ps. I also love Cracker Barrel beans and greens. I put onion, chow-chow relish, cornbread, AND tabasco sauce in my beans and the greens just get a taste of tabasco sauce. Intense :) I don't think I have ever ordered this with Jesse, though. I think he would be disgusted!

Piper Robert said...

I love beans and greens.

Smoked ham hocks in the beans. Hot chow chow and onion as a topping.

I like a touch of vinegar in the greens.

I'm not a fan of sweet cornbread. I had some cornbread at Smokey Bones recently and it was much too sweet for my palate. Just give me the kind Mom and Grandma used to make. With real butter, please.

I found it interesting you combined the beans and greens.

To add some calories, have a couple deep fried snickers for dessert. Some people like to drizzle chocolate syrup on it. Bonnie and I had one at the Columbus Jazz/Rib fest.

Let's see......Snickers, batter, deep frying, real whip cream, chocolate, gotta be at least 700 calories a piece. Eat 2 and your half way home.

Love ya!

Vicki said...

I love beans & greens! I usually add some bacon, pancetta if I have it. Fry garlic and onion, add broccoli rabe til it wilts, add the beans, warm thru, add some lemon juice. Perfect with (or without) crusty bread.

Lucy..♥ said...

Greens & beans is a favorite in this household... Mom made this and always made homemade cornbread to accompany it, making it a hearty meal. ;-)

test it comm said...

That looks nice and healthy and tasty.

Sandy Smith said...

This looks like a favorite-to-be. If I can find some swiss chard at the market, I'm making this for lunch!

Anonymous said...

This dish really inspired me and also fit within my goals of nutrition and low fat low cal and low sugar. So we made it last night with red swiss chard, garlic, onions, chopped tomato, and a bit of natural chicken broth. I like to have it a little brothy. Of all things, PATRICK LEFT THE BEANS AT THE STORE ACCIDENTALLY! So we steamed some salmon and ate it that way. It was delicious and everybody from my veggie to my protein kid enjoyed the new, flavorful dish! I was satisfactorily full and felt no desire for anything else to eat. that is a keeper. Next time, I'll make sure I have the beans in my pantry! Thank you, Susan! Love you, Suz

Ronni Gordon said...

I just wrote down the recipe. I don't do well with garlic. I like the taste if I use just a little, but if I use too much it makes me feel sick. I don't want it to be tasteless. Any ideas for a substitution?

Susan C said...

Emily, I'm with you on the tabasco sauce.

Robert, The LA County Fair is going on now and they deep fry and poke on a stick anything that's not moving.

Vicki, I love the sound of the pancetta and broccoli rabe. It's easy to do some great riffs on this dish.

Lucy, Ahhh, cornbread - you're talkin' my language!

Kevin, Yes, you've got to give it a try.

Sandy, Chard is my fave, but any green is good. I'm inspired by the rosemary foccacio on your blog.I hope I'll be ambitious enough to try it.

Suzy,I'm so thrilled that you and your family liked this! Now wait until you add the beans! I like the idea of adding a touch of chicken broth. Emily says she does that too.

Ronnie, Do you like shallots? They're kind of a cross between an onion and a garlic. I love their sweetness, and, if I had one when I made this, I would have chopped it and thrown it in. I'd also love to see what fresh ginger would do.

Another easy lunchtime favorite is sauteed spinach cooked with onions, mushrooms, nutmeg,and crumbled ground beef. Sometimes I scramble an egg into the mix and then put everything into a pita. Yum!

Anonymous said...

I'm always looking for yummy dishes that are easy to make and don't take too much time. This looks perfect and I love your pictures.

Anonymous said...

I just had my bountiful beans. I added thyme for a French twist. Absolutely delicieux! Merci.

Anonymous said...

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katrina said...

Ohhhhhhhh, this is exactly what I want today! Fabulous.

Sidney said...

I'm a little late to the party, but beans and greens are wonderful. I'm having kale and small northern beans with tomatoes tomorrow.

There's a restaurant in Seattle I used to visit that would pair collard greens and kidney beans with a corn cake.