This recipe is adapted from Saltie, A Cookbook, by Caroline Fidanza, who explains that the recipe originated with Marcella Hazan, who it turn got the recipe from her husband’s housekeeper. (http://bit.ly/1fCkSFz) While all of the recipes in Saltie sound fantastic, the book reads almost like a memoir, so it’s taken me a very long time to move past the stories and into the food. But now that I’ve crossed the line I anticipate a spate of Saltie-based dinners. Because man–this recipe was delicious! Admittedly, a lot of the yum came from Big Fork’s perfect, perfect sausage. (http://bit.ly/1fa2ofI) Which is not in the original recipe. And I used frozen, not fresh, beans. So my version of this recipe differs slightly from the original. Only slightly, though. Here’s what I did.
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberry beans
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 cloves garlic, 6 halved, 6 thinly sliced
1 bunch of fresh sage leaves
3 bell peppers, yellow, orange, and/or red
1 bunch mustard greens, washed and trimmed
Bring a pot of water to boil, add the cranberry beans, halved garlic, a glug of olive oil, and 12 sages leaves. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until tender. Salt liberally and allow the beans to cool in the cooking liquid. Or, alternatively, drain the beans, salt, and dress with 3-4 tablespoons of oil. While the beans are cooking, core and seed the peppers, then slice them into strips that are approximately 1 inch long, and 1/2 inch wide. Don’t worry about being precise. Variation in sizes will just result in the smaller pieces being more charred. The only trick is to make sure all of the peppers get cooked, to bring out the depth that comes with carmelizing. Raw peppers are lovely in their place. Just not here.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat. Being careful not to overcrowd, spread a layer of peppers in the skillet, salt, and cook until well-browned/slightly charred, about 8-10 minutes, using tongs to turn. Transfer to a heatproof bowl when done. Repeat, adding oil as necessary, until all of the peppers are cooked.
Pour the remaining oil (you should have about 1/4 cup) into a separate skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and saute, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until it turns gold and starts sizzling. Add the rest of the sage leaves, stir for another minute or so, then remove from the heat. Pour the contents of the pan over the peppers.
Slice the sausages (1 per person) into 3/4″ rounds, and saute for 5 minutes or so, until browned, in the skillet that you used for the garlic and sage. Turn to make sure both sides are browned, working in batches if necessary to ensure there is enough space around each piece for even browning. If you haven’t already done so, drain the beans. Add the cooked sausage to the beans.
To serve, place a few mustard greens in the bottom of individual bowls or a large serving bowl or platter. Top with beans, sausage, and the pepper-garlic mixture.
Note that I used a lot of mustard greens. Probably 3 or 4 leaves per serving. In retrospect, it was a bit much. I will probably go with 2 leaves next time. Also, this time I followed the original recipe and kept the leaves whole. But it was kind’ve a pain to cut them. Next time I will tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces first. If you try this out, please let me know what you do. And how you like it. Note that you can easily make this recipe both vegan and gluten-free. Just leave out the sausage.