I often look to David Tanis’ food column for inspired food ideas.
He was a lead chef for more than thirty years at Berkeley’s legendary Chez Panisse. That credential alone positions him in the pantheon of culinary immortals.
Since leaving Chez Panisse in 2011, Tanis has written a weekly column, City Kitchen, for the New York Times. The guiding concept for his column is “big city, small kitchen, busy cook,” so his recipes are aimed at people who like to cook (and eat) at home. That would be me. If you are reading this blog, I suspect that describes you, too.
Tanis’ culinary signature is the showcasing of fresh seasonal ingredients in accessible recipes, often in Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Susan Goin of Los Angeles’ Luques wrote of him: “If I could have one person in the world make me a snack or one good dish, it would be David Tanis.” Enough said.
This recipe from a recent City Kitchen column is excellent. Fortunately, it instantly caught my attention with its headline: “My New Favorite Beans.”
That’s a pickup line for me. I’m a sucker for recipes where the chef touts his food with superlatives.
Favorite. Best. Killer. If a recipe title uses any of those words, I’m in. Throw Grandma in (as in “Grandma’s Absolute Favorite Biscuits”) and I’m over the moon.
Sometimes I get “burned” that way. (Oh! No! Was that a shameless food pun? Sorry.) Not with this recipe! This bean creation, packed with all manner of good and good-for-you vegetables, is full of flavor and deserves all the superlatives Tanis can throw at it.
It is versatile, too. Serve it as a satisfying main dish or as a bold side dish. It would be beautiful on a Spring buffet. I used my stew to construct a rice bowl. Topped with its garnish of lemon zest, chopped mint, chile and parsley and crowned with a pretty hard-boiled egg, the rice bowl presentation hit all the right notes for me. The flavor of the fennel in particular was exceptional against the flat flavor of the steamed rice and the little explosions of sour, hot, and minty tastes from the garish moved the dial on this dish from excellent to wonderful. I had the rice bowl for dinner two nights in a row!
Speaking of fennel, I was particularly intrigued by Tanis’ use of the under-appreciated vegetable in this recipe. I don’t often use fennel but I always enjoy trying new tastes and I’ve long wanted to cook with fennel in a serious dish. Now I’m thinking that a fennel gratin would be pretty terrific.
By the way, fennel, with its distinct anise aroma, is in the carrot family. Did you know that? I didn’t. It is also related to parsley, dill and coriander. That’s quite a family of flavors! You buy fennel in the market by the bulb. It can be eaten raw (in thin slices) in salads or cooked in any number of dishes. All parts of fennel are edible, but this recipe uses only the bulb. Fennel is often served braised or cooked in a gratin.
Fennel probably originated in the Mediterranean and is known to have been popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans, both as a food item and as a medicine. Interestingly, in Greek mythology, knowledge was delivered to man in a fennel stalk filled with coal.
You can feel virtuous about eating fennel. A cup of fennel provides 14% of your daily requirement for vitamin C, 11% of your daily fiber needs and 10% of your daily requirement for potassium. Did I mention that a cup has only 27 calories?
Here is the link to Tanis’ original recipe:
Yields Six to eight servings
2 hr, 30 Total Time
- 2 C. dried white beans (about 1 pound)
- 1 medium onion (peeled and halved and stuck with two cloves)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small sprig rosemary
- Salt and pepper
- 3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large white onion (medium diced--about 1 1/2 C.)
- 3 celery stalks (medium diced, about 1 C.)
- 6 orange carrots (medium diced, about 1 1/2 C.)
- 1 or 2 fennel bulbs (medium diced, about 1 1/2 C.)
- 1 t. crushed fennel seed
- 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
- 1/2 t. minced garlic
- 1 bunch small yellow carrots (peeled and left whole or halved lengthwise)
- 1 C. fresh or frozen peas
- 3 T. roughly-chopped parsley
- 2 T. roughly-chopped mint
- 1/2 t. grated lemon zest
- 1/2 serrano chile (seeds removed and finely chopped)
- 4 large eggs (boiled 9 minutes, chilled in ice water, peeled and halved)
- Put beans in a large pot with onion halves, bay leaf and rosemary. Add enough cold water to cover the ingredients by about two inches. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, shift the lid on the pot until it is slightly ajar, and simmer the beans. Check the beans regularly to be sure that you maintain about one inch of water above the beans. After approximately forty minutes of simmering, stir 2 t. salt into the beans and continue to cook until the beans are tender. This will take approximately one and a half hours depending upon the age of the dried beans. Alternatively (and more quickly), you could cook the beans in your Instant Pot. When beans are cooked, set aside to cool.
- Heat oil in a large skillet and sauté diced onion, celery, carrots, and fennel. Season with salt and pepper and add fennel seed, red pepper flakes and garlic to the mixture. Continue to cook this mixture until the vegetables are softened. This takes approximately ten minutes. Lower your heat as necessary. Be careful not to burn the garlic or otherwise brown the vegetables. Set aside.
- Simmer yellow carrots in a pan of salted water until they are tender but firm. This will take about five minutes. Remove carrots from water, drain, pat dry and cool. Set aside.
- Put peas into a pan of salted water and simmer for about two minutes (or less if you are using frozen peas). Drain the peas and add them to the sautéed vegetables.
- To assemble the dish, heat the vegetable mixture over medium high heat. Add drained beans. (Discard the onions but reserve a cup of the cooking liquid from the beans.) Continue cooking until the mixture is evenly heated. As you are heating the vegetable mixture, add reserved cooking liquid to keep the mixture moist. Add salt to taste. Add cooked yellow carrots and let them heat in the mixture.
- To serve, either serve this dish spread on a platter and garnished with the mint/parsley/chile mixture and the halved boiled eggs or serve over rice in a pretty rice bowl. Just before serving, drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
I used Rancho Gordo pretty yellow eye beans in this recipe. The original recipe simply calls for dried white beans.
Be generous with the mint/parsley/chile garnish. The fresh flavors of the garnish elevate this recipe to high level of taste.