Joe Yonan is the first person to admit that he’s a bean guy.
The Washington Post food editor has written a number of vegetarian-friendly cookbooks in the past 10 years, but his latest, “Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes” (Ten Speed Press, $30), focuses on what is clearly his favorite subject.
Red beans, black beans, spotted beans, tiny beans, oblong beans. If you can think of a bean, Yonan has cooked with it, and he’s compiled years of knowledge into a celebration of this nutrient-rich ingredient that he argues can be substituted for meat in every dish where meat appears.
He offers general cooking advice — e.g., cook a pot of beans every week to use a little each day and don’t ever ever throw out the cooking broth — as well as specific techniques to bring out the best of each varietal. He orders specialty beans, such as the borlotti or cranberry beans called for in this recipe, on the internet, usually through Rancho Gordo (ranchogordo.com), but higher end grocery stores are starting to carry other brands, such as Elegant Beans or the Idaho-based Zürsun.
Orecchiette with Borlotti Beans, Bitter Greens and Lemony Bread Crumbs
The idea for this dish comes from New Jersey chef Michelle Fuerst, who calls the combination of pasta, beans and bread crumbs her "triple carb threat." Bread crumbs are an essential element of so many great pasta dishes, adding that irresistible crunch that here balances the creamy borlotti (a.k.a. cranberry) beans and the al dente pasta. An unorthodox addition is a little red miso, which provides the salt and umami you'd get from, say, anchovies.
— Joe Yonan
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup panko-style or other dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 pound dried orecchiette or other pasta shape
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups lightly packed baby bitter greens, such as baby kale, arugula, mizuna, radicchio or a mix
2 cups cooked borlotti (cranberry) beans, drained and liquid reserved
1 tablespoon red miso
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
While the water is heating, in a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a small cup and stir in the lemon zest and the 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 1 to 2 minutes less than the package directions, until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, in a large deep skillet with a lid, or a Dutch oven, set over medium heat, heat the remaining 1/4 cup oil until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the greens, cover and cook, tossing occasionally, just until wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover and stir in the beans. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
In a small bowl, whisk the miso with a little pasta cooking water and stir it into the bean mixture. Add the pasta, tossing and stirring it into the beans and greens. Add more of the cooking water and/or bean cooking liquid, as needed, to moisten the pasta and create a little sauce. Stir in one-third of the bread crumbs and the pepper. Taste and add more salt, if desired.
Transfer the pasta to a large serving platter or individual shallow bowls or plates, and top with the remaining bread crumbs. Drizzle (or squeeze) the lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve hot. Serves 6.
— From “Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes” (Ten Speed Press, $30) by Joe Yonan