There's a certain satisfying symmetry to a dish with slightly crispy, blistered, pan-fried beans mixed with ribbons of tender greens. If you're at home for lunch, this makes a perfect mid-day meal. Otherwise, add a poached egg or scoop of pasta and this becomes an easy dish to throw together for dinner.
This dish is properly the love child of two recipes I discovered and fell in love with over the past few months. The first is Heidi Swanson's recipe for White Beans and Cabbage from her recent cookbook, Super Natural Every Day. The second is Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for Fried Beans with Sorrel, Feta, and Sumac from his book, Plenty.
Both feature fried beans paired with sautéed greens, a combination that never occurred to me before making these recipes. It's a winner. The outside of the beans get just a little crispy in the hot skillet while the insides stay creamy. The greens offer a nice contrast in both flavor and texture. And as you can see, it's very easy to adapt whatever beans, greens, or other vegetables you have in the kitchen.
Beans and greens also have the distinction of being very filling and satisfying without needing much else to prop them up. I like a squeeze of lemon to perk up the flavor of the greens and a pinch of za'atar to compliment the beans. You could also go southwestern with some cumin and chili powder, Spanish with smoked paprika, or even French with some herbes de provence.
8 oz (1/2 bunch) swiss chard
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz (2 cups or 1 15-oz can) cannelloni or other white beans, drained and rinsed
Zest from one lemon
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon za'atar spice blend
1-2 teaspoons salt
Good quality extra-virgin olive oil
Trim the center stem from the swiss chard and slice the leaves cross-wise into ribbons. Chop the stems into bite-sized pieces.
Heat one teaspoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions with 1/2 teaspoon of salt until they are very soft and uniformly golden-brown, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and the chopped chard stems, 1 minute. Transfer the onion mixture to a bowl.
Warm another 1-2 teaspoons of oil, enough to coat the entire bottom of the pan. Add the beans and spread them into a single layer. Cook for 2 minutes without stirring. Stir and spread them out again. Repeat until all the beans are blistered all over. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent burning the beans.
Stir the chard leaves, the za'atar, and another 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the beans. Stir until the chard is completely wilted and tastes tender, 3-5 minutes. Add the onion mixture back in, along with the lemon zest and juice from 1/2 lemon. Stir and taste. Add more lemon juice, salt, or other seasonings to taste.
Serve immediately, drizzling a little extra-virgin olive oil over each dish. Add a poached egg, a scoop of pasta, or a piece of toast to make a more complete meal. The beans will lose their crispiness as they cool, but leftovers still make a tasty meal. This dish will keep refrigerated for up to a week.
(Images: Emma Christensen)