By Steve Dunn
Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you…..
I don’t need to complete the rest of that limerick for you now, do I?
I didn’t think so.
The fact is, that little ditty is burned into the minds of most kids by the time they’re ten years old, and may go a long way toward explaining why so many people have an aversion to eating beans. Let’s face it, the social implications of a poorly timed meal rich with beans can be staggering, especially for folks who don’t eat them as a normal part of their diet. You see, our bodies tend to adjust over time to the gas producing effects of beans, lessening their impact on our digestive tracts the more that we eat them. This is a good thing, because as an inexpensive source of protein that is low in fat and high in fiber and nutrients, we should all be cooking with, and eating more beans.
What is it about beans that make them so famously flatulent anyway? Beans are rich in fiber and resistant starches called “oroligosaccharides”. These carbohydrates cannot be digested by enzymes found in the small intestine alone, so they are passed to the large intestine where they are broken down by a process called bacterial fermentation. The majority of our flatulence is a result of this fermentation. Apparently, as the body becomes more conditioned to this type of fermentation it becomes more efficient at it and produces less gas in the process. Hey, I’m no doctor but I love beans both for the flavor and texture they bring to dishes as well as for their terrific health benefits…gas be damned. If you’re with me let’s get cooking, shall we?
Saveur Magazine recently ran a recipe similar to this one and it immediately caught my eye. Theirs was a non-pasta version of the Italian classic, Orechietti with Italian Sausage and Rapini (broccoli rabe), one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes. Their twist was quite true to the original in flavor, but was made more stew-like by substituting beans for the pasta and cooking with enough water to create a lovely stock.
In my version I’ve taken their dish a step further by introducing some great local ingredients in the form of some fresh Gaspar’s Chorizo made in Dartmouth, MA as a substitute for the Italian sausage, and some beautiful dried heirloom beans from Baer’s Best Beans of South Hamilton, MA. (Baer’s actually grow their beans at Lover’s Brook Farm in S. Berwick, ME.). I also added a liberal amount of rosemary and some preserved lemon to infuse the dish with subtle middle-eastern flavors. If you’ve never cooked with preserved lemons before, you should. I make mine with dried chilies and coriander seeds and they add an unmistakable, yet nuanced contribution here. If you don’t have any handy the dish can certainly be made without, but if you’re at all curious, then use this recipe as an excuse to make up a batch and give them a whirl, they will change the way you cook, I promise. You can find my recipe for preserved lemons at my food blog “Oui, Chef”.
Heirloom Beans with Chorizo and Rapini
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lb. fresh Gaspar’s chorizo sausage
2 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves finely minced
1 cup dried Baer’s cannellini beans, soaked overnight then drained **
1 cup dried Baer’s black turtle beans, soaked overnight then drained **
2 bunches broccoli rabe, trimmed, stems peeled, cut into 2” lengths
1/2 preserved lemon, diced (rind and peel only – lemon flesh removed)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
** I had just one cup of each of the beans in my pantry so that is what I used here, feel free to use just one or the other, or an entirely different bean if you prefer.
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add chorizo to the pan breaking it up into small chunks with the back of a wooden spoon, and cook, browning on all sides, for about 15 minutes. Remove sausage from pan, and set aside.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low, add onions, and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Add carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add garlic and rosemary and cook for 2 minutes more.
3. Return sausage to skillet. Add beans and enough water to cover, about 6 cups. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until beans are just tender, about 40 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and reduce liquid by half, about 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, set a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with water and ice. Add broccoli rabe to the boiling, salted water and blanch for 2 minutes (working in batches). Remove blanched broccoli rabe to ice water bath to cool completely.
5. When ready to serve, drain the blanched broccoli rabe and add it to the pan with the sausage and beans and gently heat to warm through. Add the diced preserved lemon and season to taste with salt and pepper, then transfer to a large bowl and serve.
Cheers – Steve
Some years ago Steven Dunn indulged his long held passion for cooking by moving to France to study the culinary arts and immerse in all things French. He earned “Le Grande Diplome” from Le Cordon Bleu, studied also at The Ritz Escoffier and Lenotre cooking schools, and completed the course offerings of the famed Bordeaux L’Ecole du Vin.
His “Oui, Chef” blog chronicles his experience of spending time in the kitchen along with his kids. While he teaches them how to cook, he hopes to encourage other families to follow his example to prepare nourishing and creative meals at home as well. Follow Steve’s cooking exploits at www.ouichefnetwork.com.