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BuffaloSpree.com's Recipe of the week: Heirloom beans and greens

Michael Franco


Each year, around the holidays, I begin to evaluate the food and dining trends of the current year, with an eye toward those expected in the coming year. Certainly I take into consideration what other bloggers and food entities—like the National Restaurant Association—say, but I also know that trends can be regional, so I look for clues as to what might be the Buffalo dining scene’s “next big thing”.

This year, as a self-test, I have decided not to look at any of the prediction lists until I have assembled a list of my own. I want to see if I can guess what the big guys will predict, but more than anything, I want to develop a list free from their influence. I am still at work on it, and will compare mine with theirs sometime around the New Year. In the meantime, I’m shelving all of those articles, emails, posts and letters listing hot eating and dining trends for 2011.

Near the top of my list this year will be a heightened awareness and demand for dry beans that are of an heirloom variety. With Michael Pollan’s often-quoted call to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” permeating our culture, and a growing appreciation for non-genetically modified foods; I may not be too far off base.

When asked to eat more beans or legumes, many people think of the same old varieties, winnowed down over the years due to lack of demand, resulting in less than half a dozen types of dry beans on our supermarket shelves. But nature has provided us with at least 13,000 existing varieties of beans. Beans come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes and their textures and flavors are as varied as anything you can imagine. So I call for more beans!

I recently purchased a variety of beans from Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto, a boutique online store specializing in Italian cured meats and heirloom dry beans. I gave some of them as a gift to a few friends and acquaintances. My good friend, Michael Franco, has shared the recipe he used to prepare his. He calls it Beans & Greens, but a quick look at the photo tells you that this dish, though simple, is a little more refined than the Beans & Greens served at most local red sauce joints.

Michael writes, “Because these beans are so special, I kept the broth clean and light, not thick or starchy. For me, this dish is all about the beans. This is my own recipe, so the ingredients—and the amount I used of each of the ingredients—is open to interpretation.


Beans & Greens

Soak beans overnight:
1 cup Fagioli Grossi 
1 cup Fagioli Pisani 
1/2 cup Ceci Toscani
Drain and rinse.

In a dutch oven add the beans with some rosemary and sage. Add water to cover by 6 inches. Cook until desired doneness. Set aside.

In a soup pot cook onions, carrots, celery and garlic in olive oil until just tender. Add enough chicken broth to barely cover the vegetables, then add chopped red swiss chard (which lends a beautiful rose color to the broth). Cover the pot and cook until the swiss chard has wilted.

Add the cooked beans to the pot along with some fresh rosemary, sage, salt (I used a fennel and cinnamon salt from Trapani) and pepper. Simmer until heated through.

To serve:
Ladle into warm bowls and drizzle with your finest olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. You can sprinkle with grated Romano cheese, but, why would you mask the clean, light, nutty flavor of these gorgeous beans? As much as I love pasta, and lord knows I love pasta, do not add pasta to this dish. It will get cloudy and starchy, and that would be an unforgivable crime."




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