The garden, farm and pantry conspired to make this flavorful stew in the midst of a pandemic. Overwintered collards and garlic from my garden and the first fennel from our CSA met Rancho Gordo flageolets, tomato sauce and spices from my pantry. including my own dried Aleppo pepper and coriander seeds.
The idea comes from the trustworthy Martha Rose Shulman, writing in the New York Times. She called it “Collard Greens Tagine with Flageolets” because the predominate spices — cumin, coriander and caraway — are typical of North African cuisine, in particular Tunisia. The spices make this special and the texture, at once crunchy and creamy, makes it perfect. Flageolets, shelling beans that are popular in France, are a great choice for a spring bean stew. They’re dried but harvested young, and therefore remain pale green and creamy.
I adapted the recipe to what I had on hand. The first time I made this, lacking fennel, I used celery. Later, lacking tomato paste, I used thick home-canned tomato sauce. Lacking collards, I would have used kale. Lacking flageolets, I would have used small white beans. Lacking pandemic lockdown, I would have made this anyway. And I will again.
Flageolet Bean, Collard Greens and Fennel Stew adapted from Martha Rose Shulman
1/2 lb dried flageolet beans, hydrated overnight and precooked
1 small onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 – 1 lb fennel or 4-5 stalks celery, reserving fronds or leaves
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp caraway seed
2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp paprika or Aleppo pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste of 1/2 c thick tomato sauce
1/2 – 1 lb collard leaves, stemmed and cut into ribbons (if stems are thick, dice them and add with the fennel or celery
Small bunch cilantro, stems divided from leaves and minced
Salt and additional red pepper to taste
This assumes you have already cooked the beans. If not, soak them overnight and simmer them for about 40 minutes until tender. Shulman’s recipe (refer to NYT article) cooks the beans with the rest of the ingredients but I didn’t so as to preserve the texture of each of the components.
Saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the fennel or celery and japaleno and sauté for about 3-4 minutes until they start to soften.
Meanwhile, lightly toast the coriander, caraway and cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Remove to a spice grinder, let cool and grind to a powder. Add to the vegetable mixture along with paprika or pepper and tomato paste. Cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Add the flageolet beans, collard greens, minced cilantro stems and cook until the collards are tender, and beans are warmed through about 5 minutes. Add cilantro leaves and season to taste.
Serve as side dish or main dish with rice or couscous. Serves 4-6.