I often think that lunches are my favorite meals. I have time to create and experiment; I’ve just been to the farmers markets; I can have wine with lunch and nap afterward; and I can do the dishes hours later.
So this Sunday was one of those lunches. Three basic elements, and a wonderful wine discovery from the cellar:
- chopped salad featuring some outstanding young red beets
- a bean purée, from an amazing white bean from Campania
- a fairly unorthodox vinaigrette
- and the wine: 2007 Pallagrello Bianco from Terre del Principe
The main feature of the meal was the chopped salad; prosaic name but fantastic ingredients:
- young beets, boiled, peeled, and cubed
- small fennel bulb, heavily trimmed and slice thinly
- radishes, thinly sliced
- Tuscan green olives with lemon, pitted and chopped
- Gaeta olives, pitted and chopped
- Spanish caper berries, finely chopped
- one tomato, seeded and chopped
- mustard greens, boiled and chopped
- and for “bacon” flavor, King Trumpet mushrooms, thinly-sliced, topped with salt, pepper and pimenton, and oven-roasted
Now it’s time to check the refrigerator for any leftover greens, for color and background. Arugula would be nice, but I did not have any. However, mustard greens have a nice little bite to offset the sweetness of the beets, so I added them.
The accompanying vinaigrette had a few outlier ingredients as well:
- Dijon mustard
- prepared horseradish
- red wine vinegar
- walnut oil
- olive oil
- Calabrian red onion jam
- 2 tsp. water
Finally, the cement that brings the meal together: a white bean purée. This was made from a small white bean from Controne, Italy, in Campania. I had purchased a small bag of these last year from BuonItalia in the Chelsea district, Manhattan, and I finally tried them two weeks earlier. They were one of the best I had ever had. Naturally, BuonItalia were out of stock for the season, but I did find a distributor in Seattle via the web, and they graciously agreed to sell to an enthusiastic amateur like me, so long as I met their minimum order size requirements.
I don’t always highlight beans on a fine oriental carpet, but these are that good! They purport to be “no-soak”. I have made them three times, twice with soaking the beans overnight, and once without. I prefer to soak them, but it works either way.
Anyway, you cook them for 1.5-2.0 hours, adding sea salt late in the process. Let cool, and turn them into a gorgeous purée. Put a garlic clove in the food processor and chop finely. Place beans in food processor and purée; add some of the bean cooking water, sea salt and olive oil, q.b.
I added a few trimmings: a roasted Portobello mushroom, reheated in the oven, and some toasted whole wheat pita bread from a Lebanese vendor at the farmers market.
The wine was a serendipitous discovery in the wine cellar. I had found a 2007 Pallagrello Bianco (Fontanavigna) from Terre del Principe. It had been tucked away underneath a number of more recent purchases on the top of my wine rack. It was very special — overtones of Mandarin orange, kumquat, and lemon — very drinkable and perfectly matched to the dishes. This is definitely a wine I will look for again.