Sometimes it is good to try someone else’s recipe and move a little beyond one’s comfort zone. It never would have occurred to me to call cooked beans a “stew”, so this recipe appearing in Bon Appétit Magazine, in December 2016 caught my eye.
Castelvetrano olives have been popping up in recipes and I was intrigued. They are green olives from Sicily. Once I learned that they were from Sicily I was totally on board to try the bean stew as we are planning a trip to Sicily in the coming month. The Castelvetrano ARE good. I found them at my local Publix supermarket – although you can also buy them online for about 4 times the price!
Beans are good for you, with lots of plant protein and other nutritional goodies, but they tend to bring on a bit of gastric distress. HOWEVER! Fennel is known for the opposite qualities…it is very good for digestion, and (at the risk of being totally earthy!)an antiflatulent, hence my addition of fennel seeds to the original recipe. Adding fennel or fennel seeds to beans somewhat ensures enjoying the dish without gastric discomfort.
- 2 cups cannellini or navy beans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups of water
- 2 teaspoons of salt, or to taste
- 4 ounces feta, crumbled
- ¼ cup chopped basil leaves
- 1 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted, and chopped
- 1 head of escarole, torn in pieces
- Juice of a lemon
The beans need to be soaked over night! Drain and rinse the beans and set aside.
- In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat, and add the onion and fennel and cook until they begin to turn brown around the edges, about 8-10 mnutes.
- Add the garlic, zest (reserve the lemon for later), rosemary, pepper flakes, gennel seeds, & bay leaves.
- Add the water and salt to the pan and heat to just boiling. Add the beans and reduce the heat to simmer.
- Cook for an hour+ stirring occasionally. The beans should creamy and tender.
- Juice the lemon and add to the stew along with the crumbled feta and basil. Add the chopped escarole in batches, stirring. You may need more liquid.
- Add the Castelvetrano olives.
- Stir, adjust the seasoning (more salt? More crushed pepper?) serve with crumbled feta on top.
Note: The stew can be made 3 days ahead. Reheat over low heat.