I found the inspiration for this recipe in Bon Appétit, and it immediately made me think of the wood-fired, brick oven at Chez Panisse Café. Not only do amazing pizzas come out of there, but a multitude of other dishes do too, such as my absolute favorite—roasted squid and cannellini beans with herb pesto and aioli. The burning wood gives the squid a smokey quality that really can’t be replicated anywhere else. But I figured I could do justice to a bubbling bean ragout, even without the smokiness that was wafting through my memory.
It wasn’t until the next day that I realized the lineage of that recipe I had found. In very small print at the bottom of the page, Bon Appétit gave credit to Pizzaiolo in Oakland, California. Chef/Owner Charlie Hallowell is in fact a Chez Panisse alum, and many of my first kitchen memories were standing with Charlie in front of the wood-fired oven in the Café when I was about ten years old, rolling out pizza dough. No wonder the recipe reminded me of that oven… Thanks, Charlie, for the memories, and for the recipe inspiration. I changed things around a bit, but the original feeling is still there.
If I were eating the squid and bean dish at Chez Panisse I would order a simple green salad to start, so I prepared the same at home, and enjoyed the beans and salad with some warm, crusty bread to mop up the juices.
CANNELLINI BEAN RAGOUT WITH PARSLEY OIL
5 cloves garlic, divided
1 yellow onion
2 small fennel bulbs
3 bay leaves
1 bunch parsley
1 cup extra virgin olive oil + more, divided
freshly ground black pepper
3 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 bunch curly kale, destemmed and chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mince 4 cloves garlic and set aside. Chop the onion and fennel bulbs. Add a splash of olive oil to a 3 quart sauce pan with a lid, and set over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, onion, fennel and bay leaves to the pan along with a large pinch of salt and a splash of water. Cover, and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, mince the remaining clove of garlic and add it to a food processor along with the parsley, 3/4 cup olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Combine on high until well incorporated, scraping down the sides as needed. Set aside.
Rinse your food processor so it’s not green from the parsley, then add 3 cups of the cannellini beans along with 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup water. Puree until smooth.
Remove the bay leaves from the onion mixture. Pile the kale on top. Add the puréed bean mixture and whole beans. Fold/stir to incorporate. If the mixture seems dry, add water 1/4 cup at a time and stir. (It should be moist when it goes into the oven.) Season with black pepper and additional salt to taste. Drizzle with additional olive oil.
Place the pot in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the top starts to show some color. To serve, scoop the beans onto individual plates and drizzle with the parsley oil.