When I say beans and greens, what comes to mind? I'll tell you how I've come to think of it: as an idea with legs. This is because my foodie friend, Justine, casually mentioned she was serving it for dinner in a vegetarian mole pie topped with savory cornbread. It sounded very intriguing. What sort of beans? What kind of greens? Whatever she has on hand!
As she made the dish again and again, over time the mole sauce fell by the wayside - instead evolving to use bacon and crushed red pepper to develop as complex a flavor. The cornbread got served alongside. As a combination it sounded like a rich southern dish, sure to become a classic with how easy it is to make-- which is where my idea of it differed from hers. She is a master at cooking quick beans in her pressure cooker, whereas I do not have one. Yet. What we do share in common is access to a wonderful variety of delicious canned beans. And what I lack, these days, is enough time in the kitchen (as well as a time saving pressure cooker).
When she reminded me that it was originally a Mark Bittman recipe, its versatility made a lot more sense. The beauty of Bittman's recipes is that they're more guidelines than a concrete idea of a dish. They are often very open ended--ideas with legs, you might say. I looked up his original recipe and was surprised to see it had from scratch chickpeas and broccoli rabe, made rich and delicious by an abundance of olive oil and a generous amount of garlic. It sounds amazing and I am certainly going to try it one night when I have more than 90 minutes to simmer those beans to perfection.
The brilliant touches of adding rich bacon fat and a pinch of hot pepper were added by Justine as she improvised and let her own take on the recipe evolve. I have made a quick version of this idea with canned pinto beans and red chard. It takes less than 20 minutes of cook time and is great for a quick weeknight meal. It'll even be done before your cornbread, depending on your recipe. I like shortcuts and don't have a good recipe for it, so I used a box mix from Krusteaz to make my cornbread and was delighted with how long I was able to keep it moist and fresh tasting.
Beans n Greens
2 (15oz) cans pinto beans, drained*
4 slices bacon, chopped into 1” pieces
12 oz bunch Swiss chard
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper, to taste
(Optional) up to 1 cup chicken stock*
Method: in a large frying pan over medium heat, sweat the bacon until it has just begun to render (~5 minutes). Add the onion and saute until soft. Add garlic and crushed pepper flakes. Saute another minute. Add chard, salt and pepper to taste, and continue to cook until just tender (roughly another 5 minutes). Add beans and stock (or can liquid; see notes). If you are not adding any liquid (see notes), continue to saute chard until it is to your liking for the finished dish and add beans at the end.
*Notes: I used the canned beans undrained, and using the liquid from both added too much gravy to the finished dish. I would use the bean liquid again, but some do not like the tin taste that sometimes lingers. If you are of that camp but find the finished dish too dry sans liquid, use up to a cup of stock until it reaches your desired consistency.