This delicious casserole-type side dish is perfect in the cooler months alongside leg of lamb or a roast chicken. You could use any type of greens you like, but the Swiss chard leaves’ delicate texture almost melt into the creamy bean background, plus there’s the added bonus of the crunchy chopped stems (use white-stemmed chard, not rainbow or red; the color will bleed and muddy up the dish). Again, any white or brown bean will work here—but you could use black beans, too, maybe with a little added cumin and some more spice? Play around with the flavors using this recipe as a template and come up with your own creation.
Extra virgin olive oil
½ stick unsalted butter
2 onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 fat leek, cleaned and sliced into rounds
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch chili flakes
1 large bunch white-stemmed Swiss chard
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 cups cooked white or brown beans with some of the cooking broth
1 cup grated hard sheep’s milk cheese, like Pecorino
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (pulse a couple of slices of good bread in the food processor to make coarse crumbs)
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a heavy-bottomed pan heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter, then add the onions, garlic and leeks. Season with salt and pepper and add the chili flakes. Sauté slowly until onions are softened and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes but as long as 30; you want them to turn a deep golden brown.
While the onions cook, strip the leaves of the Swiss chard; chop the stems and slice the leaves, keeping them separate. When the onions are about halfway to brown, add the Swiss chard stems to the pan, stirring to combine. Once everything is a nice golden brown, add the sliced chard leaves, the herbs, and the vinegar, tossing to wilt.
Butter the bottom of a ceramic oval baker or casserole dish and spread the onion and chard mixture at the bottom. Layer on the cooked beans and pour in enough liquid to come about halfway up the casserole (this helps the beans not to dry out in the oven).
Sprinkle the grated cheese over the beans and then spread the breadcrumbs on top. Dot with the remaining butter, season again with salt and pepper, and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown on top.
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