I stocked up on beans at the beginning of the pandemic and tried a lot of different versions of the classic white bean and bitter green combo, especially once I got my pandemic sourdough going. I tried A LOT of variations. The variable always seems to be the salty umami element…some recipes have anchovies, some have capers, some have cheese rinds. The winning variation, for me, featured preserved lemons. I make my own preserved lemon but I think store bought would work just as well.
I was happily making this dish with canned beans, but then I reviewed vegetarian cookbooks for Food52 and in the process rediscovered Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (the new edition). In this fabulous treasure trove of recipes, Deborah Madison has a section on beans where she humbly points out that there are many protocols that accomplished cooks swear by, before offering her own method for soaking and cooking dried beans. Well, since she pointed it out, and since I was stuck at home for a year making beans, I tried out a few different protocols. Deborah Madison’s is, by far, the best in my opinion. It’s not an uncommon occurrence. Don’t let Deborah Madison’s humility fool you. She probably has the best suggestion for how to do just about anything you would like to do in the kitchen (excluding meat preparation).
What makes Deborah Madison’s protocol for making beans worth so much praise? These beans produce an impossibly delicious broth. It is so good, that I freeze it to use instead of chicken stock in soups. Also, these beans are neither mushy or nor tough and the are perfectly seasoned
This beans and greens recipe calls for chicken stock, but I now use (you guessed it) the broth from making the beans. You can totally make this with canned white beans and chicken stock, but if you have the time, making the beans from scratch does not take much effort. The beans do call for an optional pinch of asafetida, which you will only have on hand if you make Indian food (I do). Also, Asafetida is not gluten free (the resin is usually mixed with wheat starch to make it into powder). I have never been bothered by the minuscule amount that goes in any given recipe, but I know some people are much more reactive than I am, so I thought it worth mentioning. She also suggests kombu as an alternative to the aestofetida. I have not tried that, but I bet it’s good!
I have also made this recipe with different kinds of beans and different kinds of greens. White beans were really the best. Any variety of white bean will work (northern, cannellini, royal corona, white limas). Have you ever ordered beans from Rancho Gordo? They are such good beans.
I enjoy using whatever greens came in my farmshare in place of the brocolli rabe, but the rabe is really the most fabulous. The balance of the bitter rabe, tangy lemon, sweet beans and garlic is just SO unreasonably good given how simple it is. I consider the cheese totally optional. Cheese is delicious of course, but I honestly forget it most of the time and do not miss it one bit. There is just so much flavor in this dish without it.
Broccoli Rabe with White Beans and Preserved Lemon
A mash up of this recipe from Saveur and the basic bean recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
You do not have to make the beans and bean broth from scratch, but they are really good if you have time. This recipe makes a huge amount, becasue I like to freeze it in small batches for future easy lunches.
WHITE BEANS AND DELICIOUS BROTH FROM SCRATCH (beans with aromatics)
- 1 cup white beans (northern, cannellini, royal corona, white limas)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 small onion, quartered
- several sprigs parsely
- 1 large clove garlic, sliced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 piece kombu or a pinch of aestofetida
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Soak the beans in 4 times as much water, for at least 4 hours or (ideally) overnight
- Drain the beans, and cover them with 6 cups water in a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil and continue to cook over high heat for 10 minutes. Skim off any foam and lover the heat.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the salt and simmer until the beans are partially tender (30 minutes to an hour).
- Add the salt and continue to simmer unti t he bans are tender but not mushy. Let the beans cool in the stock.
- Remove and discard the aromatics. Seperate and reserve the beans and hte stock. I try to use the beans within a week. The stock freezes well. For this dish you will be using both right away!
TO FINISH THE DISH
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
- 4 medium shallots, quartered and sliced ¼-inch-thick (about 1 and 1/2 cups)
- 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced (about 6 Tablespoons)
- 3 Tablespoons chopped preserved lemon
- 1/2 teaspoons chile flakes
- 1 pound broccoli rabe, stems trimmed then roughly chopped (about 16 cups)
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock or (my favorite) the broth from making the beans
- Two 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (3 cups) or 1 recipe of white beans from scratch
- 1 fresh lemon
- 1/2 cup Pecorino, shaved into wide ribbons with a vegetable peeler (totally optional)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add 1/2 cup oil. Once hot, add the shallots and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes or until soft and translucent, 3–4 minutes.
- Add the garlic, preserved lemon, and chile flakes and continue cooking until the garlic is soft and fragrant, 2–3 minutes more.
- Add the broccoli rabe and stock, and bring the stock to a boil. Lower the heat to a strong simmer and partially cover the pot. Cook 15 minutes, tossing the greens once or twice, until the leaves of the broccoli have wilted and the stems are almost tender.
- Remove the lid and stir in the beans, the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, and the juice from half of the lemon. Season to taste with salt, and additional lemon juice and cook, uncovered for about 5 more minutes or until the juices are slightly reduced and the rabe stems are fully tender.
- Serve with Pecorino (if using) and Sourdough Bread. This freezes well and is eady to reheat for a quick lunch on toasted bread.