January 15, 2013

Flageolet Beans with Caramelized Fennel and Rainbow Chard

IMG_4891Flageolet beans are among my favorites. Their firm yet creamy texture and subtle flavor has that just right quality that suits my taste buds. With such subtle flavor, flageolet beans are an excellent choice to introduce when composing dishes and salads. This particular dish, like so many that I make, came from working with what I had in my refrigerator. It's a nutrient packed and winner that tastes too good to be this good for you.

Beans are high in dietary fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, protein, iron, and potassium. Making beans a standard part of your diet will help to fight colorectal cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Swiss Chard as part of the dark leaf green category of vegetables is packed with nutrients. It is high in antioxidant vitamins C and A as well as being an excellent source of vitamin K and B complex vitamins. Chard is also rich in iron, magnesium, and calcium. It is low in calories and high in dietary fiber. Fennel is not only tasty, but is another great source of iron and an excellent digestive aid. It helps to balance indigestion, flatulence, diarrhea, and constipation. It is also used to help freshen breathe. Last but not least in this powerhouse of a dish, there are dried Figs. Of all fruits, figs are the highest in dietary fiber per serving. They are also a great source of vitamin K, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Flageolet Beans with Caramelized Fennel and Rainbow Chard
Serves 8-10
For all ingredients, please consider using those that are grown organically.
 
1/2 pound flageolet beans, any white beans are fine (equals about 2 cans)
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ounces rainbow chard, or swiss chard, washed thoroughly and roughly chopped
2 bulbs fennel, cored and thinly sliced (if the bulbs are large, use only one)
5 dried calimyrna figs, sliced (any dried figs will work)
  zest of about half of a lemon (optional)
  sea salt
  freshly ground black pepper
 
It is not necessary to use flageolet beans for this recipe, but if you are, be sure to soak the beans in cold water for at least 6-8 hours before cooking them.
Once the beans have been soaked for 8 hours or overnight, drain the water from the bowl and put the beans into a large saucepan or dutch oven. Cover the beans with fresh, purified water by about 1-2 inches. Add the halved onion and the bay leaves and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover the pot.
You will notice that foam will sometimes form on the surface of the water while the beans are cooking. Use a large spoon or ladle to skim the foam from the water.
The beans should cook for about 1 1/2-2 hours. Check periodically to skim the surface and add more water if necessary as there should be about an inch left in the bottom when they are done.
When the beans are tender and nearing completion, season with sea salt.
Remove from the heat and discard the onions and bay leaves. Transfer the beans to a large bowl and set aside.
Heat about 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the sliced fennel and a pinch of salt. Give the vegetables a stir and lower the heat to medium-low. Allow the fennel slices to rest as they are in the pan so they start to caramelize. If you feel the need to constantly stir, just time yourself to do it every 3-5 minutes or so. It will take about 15-20 minutes for the fennel to cook and caramelize.
Add the finished fennel to the beans.
Add about a teaspoon of olive oil to the same saute pan (no need to wash it) and set it over medium-low heat. Add the prepared chard and toss gently in the pan. It will begin to wilt and shrink in size rather quickly.
Add the sliced figs and stir to incorporate and remove the pan from the heat. If you are going to use the lemon zest, add it at this point.
Add the greens and figs to the beans. Gently toss all of the ingredients together and taste for seasoning. If desired, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and serve warm or at room temperature.
Serve as an accompaniment to the meal you are plating or as part of a variety of dishes. Leftovers are excellent reheated or brought to room temperature and served over mixed greens.


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Categories: Beans & Legumes, Fall & Winter, From The Garden, Salads, Vegan Entrees, Vegetables
 

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