A woman and her cans

Lately, a lot of the food I've eaten has come out of a can. I know, I know. I should be making things from scratch, revelling in the bounty of Spring (wait, isn't it almost Summer?), blah blah blah. Well, I say heck, the sun is shining and I ain't got time to soak and simmer beans. Besides, I can't seem to cook those little devils properly. Half my batch is still toothsome when the rest starts disintegrating. Right now, canned will do nicely for me, thank you very much. 

With a trusty can of beans and some odds and ends floating around the fridge, I managed to knock together a lunch that was nothing short of sublime. An outta-the-ballpark, home-run sorta lunch. 

It was easy. I sauteed some aromatics, warmed my canned beans with a healthy splash of stock, then stirred in a good spoonful of crème fraîche. Meanwhile, I broiled a wedge of radicchio, tossed it in a balsamic dressing and toasted a slice of bread. I assembled the parts on my plate, sat outside and soaked up the sun.

The beans took to the crème fraîche like fish to water. They were plump and creamy, mellow and smooth - a perfect foil to the peppery, slightly caramelized radicchio. AND, I think that the radicchio - being a member of the chicory family - counteracted any negative effects beans may have on your tummy (bloating, gas, indigestion, would you like me to go on?). I have not substantiated this claim but I still believe it to be true.

So, without further adieu, may I present to you:

Beans with Crème Fraîche, Rosemary and Grilled Radicchio

To be honest, I barely measured as I made this recipe. Feel free to use it more as a rough guide than a Bible. If your beans greedily drink up all the stock before the radicchio is ready, add a splash more. Don't eat meat? Use vegetable stock. Don't have any around? Maybe there's a half-empty bottle of wine on the counter, or, at the very least, I know you have water. You could use heavy cream instead of crème fraîche, basil in place of parsley. C'mon, don't make any excuses, just make this!

1 tsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves chopped
1/2 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock, wine or water
1/4 head radicchio
a thick slice of country bread
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
a pinch of hot red pepper flakes
salt and freshly pepper, to taste
2 tbsp crème fraîche
a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped

Preheat the broiler.

Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and rosemary and stir until wonderful smells start emanating from the pan. Dump in the beans and stir. Add the stock and simmer very gently until the beans are warmed through and the stock has been absorbed.

Meanwhile, place the radicchio under the broiler and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes per side.  At the same time, toast the bread on both sides - don't burn it! Whisk together 1 tsp of extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar with a pinch of hot red pepper flakes and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. When the radicchio is done, cut out the core and separate the leaves. Toss them in the dressing and arrange on a plate. Place the toasted bread on top. 

Once the beans are thoroughly warm and the stock has been absorbed, stir in the crème fraîche and turn up the heat. Cook briefly, until the beans are creamy and coated, then stir in the parsley. Spoon the beans onto the bread and eat.

Makes enough for one glorious lunch, just for you.

Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking - what should I do with the rest of the can of beans? Well, if you're like me, you'll open another can. That's right. Find yourself a can of tuna, not that light, water-packed stuff - what you want is Italian tuna, preserved in olive oil. Yeah. It's good. You don't really need to do anything with it. You could peel back the lid and call it dinner. But in this case, we're going to be a bit more civilized. Chop up some more new garlic, rosemary and flat-leaf parsley. Add a good squirt of fresh lemon juice and a grinding of salt and pepper. Throw in the other half of the can of beans plus a small can of tuna, oil and all. If you still have radicchio leftover from your lunch, you could slice it into ribbons or roughly chop it and add it as well. Toss everything together, pile it on crusty bread and eat ferociously. Supper is served.

How's that for a woman, a can and a plan?

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