march 6, 2019
Southern comfort food means a big old pot of beans simmering on the stove. And an even bigger pot of slow cooked greens. This recipe combines the two and adds potatoes for good measure, because potatoes are the universal symbol of comfort with any meal.
This recipe also means comfort cooking, with love—love of simple ingredients, love of slow food and love of feeding, since you’ll have plenty to share. It’s still winter, so braising and simmering rule the kitchen and fill the house with wonderful aromas. Memories of my mom’s pot of beans on the stove were with me as I prepared this dish for my guests. The southern tradition of topping bean dishes with raw onion gets the nod with sliced scallion garnishing the finished bowls, and peanuts of course are icons of southern food.
I regret that I never asked my mother how she cooked her greens, so when I moved back to Richmond my plan was to quiz all the seasoned cooks about their technique. Seeing someone standing in line at the grocery store with a mess o’ greens, I asked and received pretty much the same answer each time : cook with just a little bit of liquid, about three to five hours. Southern style greens are for another story and another day. Beans are the queens today.
The greens in this hearty entree develop tenderness and flavor after about an hour. I used Tuscan kale (also known as cavolo nero) but any winter green will make this dish a winner. Serve on the day you make this entree, or wait a day for flavors to marry. Beyond that the potatoes lose their tender waxiness and become too firm. This dish will serve six to eight as an entree and lots more as a soup, especially if you add extra vegetable stock to thin. Seasoning with salt is done after cooking, as salting early in the process may lead to tougher bean skins. For the most tender beans, use fresh dried beans as opposed to stale ( I love the Rancho Gordo brand for heirloom varieties like the Rio Zape beans used in this stew, lyrically described as ” a rich, dense pinto-like bean with hints of chocolate and coffee, great with Mexican food or as a pot bean with a squeeze of lime”). Rancho Gordo beans have been featured here as a thick soup; a hearty White Bean and Cabbage Soup is similar, with a zesty pink peppercorn caper salsa to top the finished dish. Today, I’ll offer dry roasted peanuts and sliced scallion as toppers, added at the table as desired.
Beyond the step of presoaking the beans (and you’re welcome to use canned beans if you’re really strapped for time and patience), this is an easy one-pot meal than can simmer away as you tend to other tasks. Your reward will be a filling meal fit for a southerner.
Beans and Greens
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes six to eight entree servings, and even more for a soup course if thinned with broth
one pound dried heirloom beans like Rancho Gordo’s Rio Zape, or pinto beans, presoaked*
one large sweet onion, peeled and cut in strands
one large carrot, peeled and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
one bunch Tuscan kale or other type of greens, sliced thinly
7 or more cups best quality vegetable stock
1 ½ pounds baby potatoes, cut in half
kosher salt and fine white pepper
garnishes : unsalted dry roasted peanuts, thinly sliced scallion
- two methods for presoaking beans : overnight at room temperature with water to cover plus three inches, or cover with water plus two inches in large heavy pot, bring to boil and then allow to sit covered for one hour off heat
- Drain and rinse presoaked dry beans.
- In large heavy dutch oven or enameled pot, combine onion and carrot with olive oil over medium high heat; when mixture begins to sizzle, reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 7-8 minutes.
- Add beans, greens and vegetable stock, bring to boil and simmer, covered and stirring occasionally , until beans are tender but not falling apart (this can take 45-75 minutes depending on beans).
- Add potato halves, bring to boil again and then reduce to simmer, cooking another 30 minutes until potatoes are tender.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately or allow to cool to room temperature and reheat the next day; beyond a couple of days, the potatoes lose their tenderness and are too firm.
- Garnish at the table with peanuts and scallion.
- For a soup, add more broth to desired texture and adjust seasoning.