Prep time: 1 hour for soaking beans, 40 minutes hands-on
Cooking time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Makes 4 main dishes
1½ cups dried cannellini beans
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1¼ pounds boneless pork butt, cut into 1-inch pieces, excess fat trimmed
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 head fennel, diced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 cups chopped canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
1 cup dry white wine
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound Tuscan kale (cavolo nero) or other kale or collard greens
2 pounds cherrystone clams
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. In a large pot, cover the beans with
2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.
2. Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the pork pieces, and brown them on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon, and drain them on paper towels. Pour out the fat from the casserole, and replace it with the remaining olive oil (this cuts down the amount of saturated fat in the dish). When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, fennel, red pepper flakes and thyme. Sauté over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the onion is soft.
3. Add the tomatoes and wine, and bring to a boil. Add the beans with their liquid and the pork pieces. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 2 hours, or until the beans and pork are tender; season with salt and pepper after 30 minutes (not too much salt, since the clam juices will be salty).
4. Meanwhile, tear the kale leaves from their stalks, and steam them for 10 minutes or until tender (the time depends on the age and variety of kale). Squeeze out excess water, and slice the leaves into ribbons.
5. Turn up the heat under the casserole, and add the kale and clams to the pot. Cover, and cook until the clams open (5 to 10 minutes). While the clams are cooking, shake the casserole a few times to move them around.
6. When the clams have opened, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes more (discard any clams that do not open). Taste the sauce for seasoning. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
SPICY DANDELION GREENS ON A BED OF CAULIFLOWER PUREE
Like spinach, dandelion greens cook down to nothing, so I like to serve them as a spicy topping over sautéed sea scallops. They are also terrific in a hummus sandwich. Choose young, tender shoots if possible (older, larger leaves harvested in winter tend to be more bitter).
Prep time: 32 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes 4 side dishes
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 1 pound)
1 bay leaf
1 cup milk or chicken stock
Coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, or 1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 bunches dandelion greens
¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1. Place the cauliflower, bay leaf and milk or chicken stock in a large, wide saucepan with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, put the cauliflower in a food processor (remove the bay leaf). Process until smooth, then add the butter or olive oil, and blend for a few more seconds. Season with salt and pepper, and keep warm in a low oven or double boiler.
2. Pull the dandelion leaves from the stems, and tear them into pieces. Blanch the leaves in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes (longer if the leaves are mature). Drain, and rinse in a colander under cold water to stop the greens from cooking further. Squeeze out the excess liquid.
3. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet, and stir-fry the garlic until it is a light golden color. Add the greens, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste; stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until the water from the greens has evaporated.
4. To serve, place a dollop of cauliflower puree on each plate, and top with dandelion greens. Alternatively, put the puree in a serving dish, and garnish it with the greens.