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All You Need are Beans and Greens
A foolproof Italian-American classic that takes ten minutes
Contrary to how it may seem, I tire, every so often, of overly-precious pink chicories and carefully-arranged hunks of tuna. Convenient problems to have, to be sure, but even the savviest greenmarket hounds have to get bored with another oyster mushroom, another head of Treviso, another candy-striped beet — right?
At least one night a week you need a meal that’s sourced neither locally nor Seamless-ly, and ideally it’s quick and comforting. If it’s vegetarian or vegan, all the better. This is where a can of beans and a head of greens come in. There are endless riffs on this theme — garbanzos and kale, black-eyed peas and collards, etc. — but the one I make most often is escarole and cannellini beans. Undoubtedly this is thanks, in large part, to my Italian grandmother, who taught me this dish and makes an inimitable version (as grandmothers are so adept at doing). But even if you’re not eating your grandma’s version, escarole and beans is more or less unmatched in comfort, price and ease. All in all, this will cost you about ten minutes and about six ingredients — five if you omit the cheese to make it vegan. With a hunk of semolina or sourdough, it’s a supremely cozy way to enjoy a mid-week and mid-winter dinner.
Escarole and Beans
Half a head of escarole, washed thoroughly
One can of cannellini beans, or any white bean
4 large cloves of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade, or water
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
Salt and coarsely cracked black pepper
Smash each garlic clove with the back of your knife; remove the skin, cut off the knobby ends, and remove the inner germ (stem).
Place the garlic in a pan with a generous amount of olive oil (the bottom of the pan should be fully covered). Add a pinch of salt and some cracked black pepper.
Sauté the garlic until barely golden brown; while garlic is cooking, coarsely chop the escarole.
Once the garlic is just beginning to brown, add the full can of beans including the liquid. Add a small amount (about a third of a cup) of stock or water; bring this to a boil and let it reduce until it’s fairly thick, then reduce the heat to low.
Add the escarole, add salt and pepper to taste, and cover with a lid. After four or five minutes, remove the lid and stir. Continue cooking until the escarole is fully cooked and wilted but still green; remove from heat and add some Parmigiano.
Plate and top with a drizzle of olive oil and more Parmigiano.
(Recipe serves two, can be scaled up as needed.)