“Hi, I’d like to place an order for pick up, please.”
“Ok, what would you like?”
“Greens and Beans, please.”
Laughter and confusion ensued, as if I had just ordered a dirty joke with all the delivery prowess of Amy Schumer.
“Ohhhhh, you mean ‘Beans & Greens.'”
Isn’t that what I said?
I failed to see the hilarity in my word order reversal, but then again, I’m an outsider, a foreigner, a newbie when it comes to BEANS & Greens. This dish was not a tradition in my family. It was not a weekly staple. We didn’t debate which grandmother’s secret recipe was better, or whether an aunt used enough garlic. No, this is a staple I am adopting from my current city, from Pittsburgh.
This rusty, steel town probably adopted this staple from its Italian immigrants, but I can’t say for certain. The only research I have conducted is the occasional sampling at the small Italian bakery/cafe. It’s the one next to the espresso bar, where the old Italian men while away the day with caffeinated banter in broken English and broken Italian, depending on their generation. Like their changing language, recipes arrive on new shores and change, or in my case, they arrive in my kitchen, and I stubbornly cling to my word order- Greens and Beans!
As the Urban Farmer began preparing the farm for fall and frost, it was time to admit defeat on certain groundhog-nibbled vegetables and dig up their rows. The cauliflower and broccoli failed to grow beyond small, geometric clusters, but the plants’ leaves were dark, green, broad and impressive. As I uprooted the plants, the frugal, midwesterner in me brainstormed how to salvage the greens. So it was, dear Pittsburghers and Italians, I came to make Farm Greens & Beans, and we ate bacony, garlicky, parmesan accented greens for a week like happy peasants!
Here’s to hearty greens!
Farm Greens & Beans
About This Recipe: If you want a more precise Greens & Beans recipe, try this. My version is loose and easily adaptable. The main intention of this recipe is to take advantage of farm greens such as cauliflower leaves. If you’re not a farmer or gardener, you can still adapt this recipe and use the beet greens or turnip greens available in grocery stores with a combination of kale or collards. Either way, it’s a method to use the whole vegetable and not just a root. The quantity of greens is imprecise but easy to navigate. I wanted to make a large pot, so we used 3-4 hearty bunches, and filled a dutch oven with greens.
Farm Greens and Beans
2-3 Tablespoons coconut oil (or the high-heat oil of your choice)
1 chopped onion
3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
5-6 slices Black Forest Bacon, chopped (organic/no-hormones)
a mixture of dark leafy greens, washed, stems trimmed and chopped (enough to fill your dutch oven)
2 (15- ounce) cans organic cannellini beans, rinsed thoroughly and drained
1 1/1 cups organic vegetable or beef stock
Dried herbs such as Herbs de Provence, oregano, basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the onions and garlic. Continue to saute and stir, adding a bit of water as needed to prevent sticking.
Once the onion and garlic are tender, add the chopped bacon. Once the bacon starts to crisp, add the greens. Let saute until the greens cook down slightly.
Add the beans and the stock.
Cover and let cook until the greens are tender. Add more water as needed if there isn’t enough liquid to steam the greens. Season according to your tastes.
Serve warm with salt, pepper, a sprinkling of parmesan and a side of rustic garlic bread. I recommend an accompanying mug of hot cider on crisp fall days.