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Monday, June 20, 2011

Good Fast Food: White Beans with Greens and Sausage

How versatile is this dish? For one thing, it can be served cold as a salad* or hot as a stew. Room temperature also would work just fine. The ingredients are nearly infinitely adaptable, depending on what you crave or happen to have on hand.

Our last batch was inspired by some leftover greens from the CSA box. We still haven't identified them—they resembled broccoli raab sans blossoms—but after we sautéed them we decided that they were a bit too chewy and strong-tasting to eat on their own, even with a splash of fruity fig vinegar. Though we were definitely not crazy about them, we're committed to using every molecule of our precious (and not inexpensive) CSA produce, so tossing them was out of the question.

We remembered that greens go well with white beans, so we cooked a pound of Great Northerns with plenty of crushed garlic and sage. When the beans were done, we removed most of the cooking liquid (saving it for soup) and added the mystery greens (cut in smaller strips to mitigate the bitterness), a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, four crumbled veggie sausages, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

(Though we cooked our beans from scratch, you could use a few cans of rinsed white beans for a nice fast meal.)

Our impromptu stew was wonderful; the bitter greens played well with the mild beans and salty sausage. But any kind of greens would do—chard, kale, collards—and roasted red peppers would have made an excellent substitute for the tomatoes. Plain diced tomatoes or halved grape tomatoes also would have worked. Chunks of Italian sausage (or Tofurky!) would have been delicious.

The lesson: Don't give up on something you've cooked, no matter how much it has disappointed you—chances are that with a little tweaking, it can be part of another dish that you'll like much better.

If you opt for a cold salad, remove all of the bean cooking liquid and add a little more olive oil.

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