White Beans & Bitter Greens (Bacon or vegan? You choose!)

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I didn’t know a thing about chicories and radicchios except that they’re expensive, gourmet, and look pretty. Of course, when R asked me what they’re like, I told him it is all similar to lettuce. Unsuspecting the almost unpalatable raw bitter taste and rather firm texture, R decided to throw a handful of large leafed treviso in his burrito while walking around the garden. The first bite was a shock. Upon the second bite, it dawned on him that this was nothing like lettuce. By the third bite, he was convinced he had just eaten a poisonous plant, which was a plausible explanation, since all of our lettuces are mild and buttery, yet flavorful. Even our spicy microgreens, being a bit sharper, are not anywhere near the point of repulsive bitterness.

So then, what’s all the hype about chicories and radicchios? I asked the chef when I delivered twenty pounds of beautifully deceiving rosy heads and purple tinted spears. Chef Bell at Chez Melange informed me that he roasts or sautés them, with garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, etc., and drizzles them with a sweet balsamic sauce. Otherwise, chop finely and add to salad tossed with glazed pecans and fruit, like sliced apple or pear. Aha! Grateful for this information, I began exploring the world of bitter greens and commenced experimentations. So far, this White Beans & Bitter Greens recipe is my favorite. I love the creamy white bean texture that melts in your mouth and compliments the slightly bittersweet keynotes. R likes the fact that I can also make it with bacon!

Below is the carnivorous recipe with vegan options.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 bacon slices, chopped (substitute for a Tbsp of olive oil if preparing vegan)
  • 1 cup chopped onion or leeks
  • 2-3 crushed garlic cloves
  • 6 cups chopped chicory lettuce, endive (escarole or rhodos), and/or radicchio (I like combining my greens instead of just using one variety)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • ¼- ½ tsp salt
  • 14-16oz chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
  • 16oz cannellini beans, or other white beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tbsps freshly chopped green onions for garnish
  • Optional: 1-2 Tbsps finely chopped fresh fennel sprigs to taste

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Directions:

Fry the bacon in a large saucepan until crisp. Remove the bacon pieces from the pan and set aside.

Add the chopped onions or leeks to the drippings and cook until golden brown. Stir occasionally.

For a vegan version, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped onions or leeks.

Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the chicory/endive/radicchio and cook for a few minutes until it wilts, stirring frequently.

Add sugar, salt, pepper, fennel, and broth.

Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the greens are tender, stirring occasionally.

Add beans and cook for a couple of minutes until thoroughly heated.

Serve in bowls and sprinkle with bacon and green onions.

Top with green onions only for vegan recipe.

Buon appetito!

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