The first nippy mornings are here. I don’t jump out of bed at first light, nor does Chloe, our pup. She burrows into her bed craving a bit more sleep like me. Fuzzy slippers replace light crocs bedside. They hit the floors protecting my feet from the cold shock of marble. I crawl out of bed, splash water on my face, brush my teeth, and saunter to the kitchen. First call of order, put the moka pot on the flame because coffee is the best way to start my day. I raise the tapparelle (roller shutters) and behold a small slice of Villa Pamphili from our balcony. Deep breath, another day, another beautiful day.
With the first chill, colors change overnight from vibrant pink watermelon, yellow peaches, and fire engine red tomatoes to knobby orange pumpkin, apricot toned persimmons, and mauve speckled Roman beans. I sit at our breakfast bar, savor a cup of joe, and dream of what to cook, the dishes that I miss in summer and look forward to in fall. I recall uncountable delicious memories and tables. The first meal that I crave as temperatures drop is roast chicken with potatoes. It’s become one of Francesco’s favorites too; food that warms the soul.
The plane lands at Boston Logan Airport. It’s December. After living in Italy for more than 10 years, my bones ache when they meet East Coast winter. Mom and Dad wait outside and whisk me away to my first kitchen. I shower off the trip. Mom is at the stove, I stand beside her and we hug. It is always too long from the last time we hugged.
I sit across the table from my parents. A steamy bowl of greens and beans appears with a chunk of Italian crusty bread. I could eat it for days and in fact I do. Mom makes enough for an army. A dish that I crave with simple yet distinct flavors that I love; greens, beans, garlic, and olive oil. Tender escarole is our go to green, it’s the best green for winter soups: a tad bitter but nothing like its cousin radicchio. Gracious, balanced, and courteous, she cooks quickly and neither overpowers nor gets lost amongst creamy beans. The rainbow of green, from dark to light is beautiful to the eye.
Borlotti are our go to beans 99% of the time. The versatile legume is rich, slightly nutty, almost sweet. When borlotti are out of season or our dried stash runs out, cannellini beans step up to the plate. The combination of the two is a deliciously divine match.
We dig in, sopping up the soup and olive oil with bread. We talk until my eyelids are too heavy to keep open. This is a perfect moment. Thank you.
So shuck some beans, clean the greens, chop cloves of garlic; let’s get cooking.
Gina’s version of Nancy’s greens and beans
- 1 pound fresh borlotti beans, adjust amount to taste
- 2-3 heads of escarole, cleaned
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1-3 garlic cloves, chopped
- Tear the escarole leaves into small pieces or leave whole if you like.
- Drizzle olive oil in a dutch oven pot and heat over medium low. Add the garlic and cook until slightly golden. Season with salt.
- Rinse beans and transfer to the pot with the olive oil and garlic. Cover with water or broth of your choice. Bring to a simmer and cook for around 15 minutes.
- Stir escarole into the soup in batches to wilt.
- Continue to simmer until the beans are fully cooked. Taste for salt. You may want to add fresh chili pepper or black pepper.
- Plate; add a spoonful of olive oil to each plate for flavor.
- Serve with your favorite bread, a glass of wine and nourishing conversation.
This conversation is not over yet. Stay tuned as we reminisce of tables past, present and future.