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CONTENTS

Preface: Heading Home

Introduction: Making Dinner

1. Larder: Five Types of Foods to Keep in Stock

The Five Greens

The Five Liquids

The Five Dairy Products

The Five Breads

The Five Fruits

2. Vegetables: From Side Dish to Main Course

Five Ways to Cook Asparagus

Five Ways to Cook Broccoli

Five Ways to Cook Carrots

Five Ways to Cook Onions

Five Ways to Cook Cauliflower

3. The Base of Your Meal: Legumes, Rice, Pasta, and More

Five Ways to Cook Beans

Five Ways to Cook Rice

Five Ways to Cook Lentils

Five Ways to Cook Couscous and/or Quinoa

Five Ways to Cook Spaghetti

4. Protein: Five Ways to Bring the Beasts, Birds, and Fish to Dinner

Lamb Thigh with Couscous and Tomatoes

Monkfish Roasting

Hanger Steak with Avocado and Broccoli and Rice Sauté

Roasted Chicken

Hot Italian Sausage with Pasta

5. Weekend Cooking: Five Preparations That Take a Little Time

Sauce Bolognese

Spaghetti and Dungeness Crab

Your Own Tomato Sauce

A Modern Fish Stew

The Last Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe You Will Need

Toolbox: Five Essential Skills

How to Cook Beans

How to Cook Rice

How to Cook Lentils (and Lentil Soup)

How to Cook Couscous

How to Cook Quinoa

Menus: Five Ways to a Meal

Menu 1: A Straightforward Dinner

Menu 2: Reasonably Quick and Wonderful

Menu 3: A Friday Night Feast

Menu 4: A Buoyant Presentation

Menu 5: A Particular Meal

A Sweet End to the Meal, a Dessert of Fresh Fruit

Epilogue: Cleaning Up

Index

Acknowledgments

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PREFACE
Heading Home

We are going to eat at home. There may be no time to shop. You may not have thought about what to make. There may be parts and pieces, but no plan for how to use them.

This is a cookbook for workdays. It offers ideas for getting dinner started, getting it done that evening, and keeping it going day after day.

I cook seven days a week and need a cookbook that can handle that kind of schedule. I need to be able to improvise and make do, and at the end of the day, I need to be pleased with the meal. And pleased to cook it.

INTRODUCTION
Making Dinner

This is a book about making dinner—about making it in real time and preparing it under real conditions. The meals are obviously important, but often there is no time to do careful shopping, planning, or preparation. There may only be time to get the meal ready.

I own a bookshop near the Pike Place Market in Seattle, and depending on the season, the days can begin early and they can go a little late. Often, I walk through the market on my way home; just as often, the purveyors are already packing up when I get there. I missed them in the morning, and I missed them at night. It is lovely to have an afternoon to talk to the butcher and to go over what is in and what is out with the fruit and vegetable people. But it is not always possible. Sometimes, you must simply cook and make do. Sometimes, there are no roasts, fish, or chicken at the ready, but there is still a dinner to be constructed.

No matter how busy or crisscrossed your day has been, there are ways to eat well. A good soup may handle the task on nights that only need a light meal. With a little care and attention, asparagus and rice can ably sit in as a weekday supper. A plate of pasta, with a few details, may seem a quiet feast. The hard part is recognizing the possibilities on hand.

My staff and I prepare lunch every day at our bookshop. My first cookbook, Lunch at the Shop, distilled our experience into a manual, detailing how anyone can eat lunch well, even during busy workdays. But now I want to focus on dinner, at the end of whatever kind of day you might have had.

A cookbook’s job is to cook. That is what Five Ways to Cook Asparagus means to do—to help you get meals ready by offering inspiration, advice on preparation, and encouragement to enjoy the process and the meals.

Where to Start?

For most days it is an honor to do the cooking—to be the cook. There are the obvious difficulties of supplies and provisions, of new seasons and new products, of having the time and having the will. Often, the true difficulty is the sense of what would work, what would be best, what would be appropriate, and what we should have.

It is the task of where to begin. One thing may lead to another, but first you need some inspiration. On some days, it might be chicken or fish. On others, a soup or a salad. You need the start of a trail, a place to begin, and then the details can unfold and make some sense.

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For me, the entry point is rarely a big bird or a long steak and more often a detail—a tomato coming into season, a wild mushroom, chives, basil, fresh corn, a variety of lentil I have not tried, or even a new source for dried beans. A single ingredient can provide a spark of inspiration, and then cooking seems to lose much of its burden. It gathers momentum. To get a meal prepared, you must work with ingredients, time, and inspiration. They are your terms and, with some luck and care, your most crucial allies.

Cooking by Fives

I do not stack recipes on end, like dominoes, to take me through the week and weekend—that, to me, would be an assignment. Instead, I begin with some questions: What can I get, where are we, what is the season, what is the weather, what is the mood? How much time will I have to cook, to shop? What would please me, and what will please the people for whom I am cooking?

And then I can start to figure it out. It may be a seasonal detail—spinach, for example, that I rarely think about except in the spring, when it is so subtle and fresh that it can be added to nearly everything. It may be the weather—the comfort and endurance on a cold day of cannellini and cranberry beans, which can make a meal by themselves or accommodate multiple variations. It may be convenience—I know a prepared bolognese sauce can be added to just about everything and so will make my cooking half the task. That can be a great help during busy weeks.

Help may come from many directions. I know that from a good roasted chicken, two or even three wonderful meals will directly emerge—a chicken and leek soup, a creamy risotto, and a roast chicken panzanella, for instance—and there are even a couple of lunches to be pulled from it.

I know that shellfish are at their best in the winter, that asparagus should be played all spring, that true wild mushrooms can lift one’s spirit and one’s pasta, that fresh tomatoes should be celebrated every day they are available, that toasting day-old bread can carry an entire meal, that a good cookbook can be more important for its optimism than its recipes, that parsley is as obvious as a cotton pillowcase, that good food is healthier than bad food.

Five Ways to Cook Asparagus celebrates this kind of knowledge: the importance of the details, and how to best use particular ingredients. Organized around the number five, this book is inspired by a hypothetical five-day work-week. The number five is our boundary, offering a plan to make the best use of your time, your materials, and your interest in good and healthy food. There are many possible directions, but our map begins from five points.

The number five is a solution. You have workdays to plan for and, typically, little time to do the planning. The best help, in my experience, is to have a few quick, tried-and-tested paths—ways that you can react to both the food you might have on hand and the food that has suddenly come into season. Once you get the optimism of a few ideas, the rollout of each meal is less imposing. It is a task of starting out as much as it is a task of cooking.

The intent of focusing on certain foods—whether asparagus or broccoli, cauliflower or lentils, rice or beans—is to make each one fundamentally clear and to bring each one alive, strengthened with the details of its history and its natural gifts. The set of foods in the pages to follow was carefully selected. They are the important items to have in your larder—delicious and versatile ingredients with which to build a relationship. They make a powerful, adaptable arsenal.

I am not trying to make anything simpler. I am trying to make it possible and more of a pleasure. If you can make this recipe, then you can make another, and if you can do that, then ten more things will come to mind.

Today’s Food Supply

I was not raised with five ways to cook asparagus or cauliflower. Meals were a simpler regimen than that, constructed of a protein, potato, and vegetable, and, in the warmer months, a salad. We never thought to experiment with the techniques of Vietnam or the Middle East, or those of Mexico or Peru—to practice the subtleties of Spanish cuisine or the long knowledge of Italy. There were fewer alternatives and certainly fewer supplies. It was a narrower map.

But the doors to cooking, the details to nearly every food culture on this earth, are near to fully open now. And their influence will only broaden. We have the knowledge of and interest in making meals that would not even have been considered twenty years ago. The ingredients have become more specific and more accurate. The products have, in many cases, been rescued from neglect and commodity.

It is a live condition, your food supply, and the more you have a good sense of it, the better your cooking will be, and the more your meals will reflect your actual place and time. Ingredients, and knowing which are best and available, are true and natural guides to being a good cook.

I can now buy lovely dried beans and lentils and rice and know the dates and origin of each one of them. I can source the meats and chicken and fish, choosing them as they are best available. My grocer is pleased to say that the asparagus is a good month away from being released or that the peas are gone for the season. My baker is looking for better wheat, and the yogurt maker is using better milk. My son chides me that I have only started to learn about quinoa.

The flood of information about food has contributed a superb complexity to the standards of cooking, but the need for selection and pattern is more apparent than ever. A visual display of sixteen different carrot dishes that one can make is a fine online distraction, but it does not help me get a meal ready. For that, I need a more rigorous focus that cuts through the clutter and assembles the best available cast. And that is where the number five comes in—a collection of five simple, appealing ways to handle the season’s or your larder’s bounty (or lack thereof).

There seems to be less time to shop, and less time to cook, and yet time spent eating together seems more important than ever. I may cook a dinner with only one or two fresh ingredients and give them particular attention, and I must have the confidence that it will be enough.

Beyond the Recipe

I have often read and tried a new recipe that, for me, had no context. I would follow it, even as an acolyte, but I was only cooking by its numbers. It was a new dance step or, in some cases, almost a new magic trick and an adventure.

Until I weaned myself from the exact written recipe, until it became, in whatever form, part of all I know and sense about food—until then, it sat in a particular isolation. If I signed on to the recipe as is, I curiously signed out of my own talents and intuitions and reactions. I was a good soldier, but not a very good cook and, in a way, not myself.

You can sense the blood of a recipe. It has a pulse, however faint or furious. And it has crucial intersections, moments when it gives specific direction, where you must go, how you must get there, and how quickly. It is in those details that you must find and take what you can from a recipe. And make it part of your own strength. You may try to memorize the details, but you must actually internalize them, understand them, and make them a part of what you know about cooking. You can always go back to it for specifics, but make certain to take from it some sense of why it works and why you danced with it.

With Five Ways to Cook Asparagus, there are, of course, recipes, but I have kept them in the simplest formats possible. My favorite ways of grilling asparagus and cooking rice do not require elaborate techniques, after all. These fundamental methods, focused on a limited set of ingredients, are intended to help expand your knowledge of some versatile foods and hone your skills in preparing them.

Making a recipe is a little like hiking a new trail. At first, you are tiptoeing and tentative, unsure of lengths and time and dangers. But as you return, you get better and better at it and you begin to know it, to see its point, to see its structure, and finally, to see where it is taking you. By then, you are no longer looking at your steps, you have all your wits back, and you are already making adjustments. The trail is in your muscle memory.

If you do make your own dinners, if you practice it, get good at it, and start to cook intuitively, if you start to believe it, and shop for it, and cook at night for it, if you look it right in the eye and make sense of it, then you will have something. You will be a partner to seasons and food culture, a quiet director of smells and colors, habits, and tastes, a part of history and invention.

At its best, you are cooking to use the past, to sustain the present, and to account for the future. At its most basic, you are using the foods that need to be used, you are keeping a close eye on the day and your guests, and you will have a future meal nearly ready, or at least half prepped—all in spite of your hectic schedule. And in any case, do not worry. You will have lots of help along the way . . . the people on this trail love to cook.

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LARDER
Five Types of Foods to Keep in Stock

We start in the belly of your kitchen. Your larder is where meals are born. You must protect it, keep it clean and fresh and visible, know its dates and shortages and prospects. Some ingredients will change with each season, often nearly disappearing at times, but it is the proper larder that will give you confidence, the knowledge that you are always ready and able to cook.

In the pages to follow, five basic categories of foods that are handy to keep in your kitchen are listed—dairy products, greens, liquids like olive oils and vinegars, breads, and fruits, with five essential representatives of each category explained. Advice on sourcing is given, and a recipe that allows each essential ingredient to shine is provided.

Each item in the larder has separate needs—some will be fine with little attention and some will need daily attention; some should be kept on hand every day of the week and some may appear in your kitchen every few days. It is a kind of barnyard, but it is the barnyard that you must cook from, and the barnyard that will be the most help with the alchemy of making meals.

THE FIVE GREENS

Parsley / Arugula / Butter Lettuce /

Cilantro / Swiss Chard

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PARSLEY

It gets faint credit, but parsley is a shy beacon in a kitchen and a specific light in any presentation. It is available every day of the year, but it is at its brightest when the sun and the spring have returned.

There are two kinds of parsley—the flat-leafed version, often called Italian parsley, and the curly-leafed variety. I use both of them, but I use flat-leaf parsley most of the time. It is less bitter and has a more interesting texture when it is chopped. Flat-leaf parsley is part of the celery family, and its leaves can appear near identical to those of celery. You can only distinguish them by smell or taste.

I will use the curly-leafed variety if there is no other choice or in dishes that might be reused several times, like a couscous or quinoa, as the curly variety stays wonderfully crisp and green.

The difficulty of parsley is that it can feel more like a logo or a signature than an actual food. It seems an obligation, a flourish added at the end. But give it more credit. Many times, it will be the very difference to a dish. It is the literal signal of freshness and immediacy, of care and attention and pace. It is the taste of fresh greens, it is the color of new growth, and it is the texture of actual plant and leaf.

You must take some care when you buy it. For one thing, it is often as well-handled as a dollar bill. Each customer seems to pick all the bunches up, looking for the best one or the largest one. When you get home, take the elastic or twist tie off, rinse the parsley under cool running water, then plunge it into a big bowl of fresh cold water. Let it rest for a few minutes in the bowl, then lift it out and shake it to get the loose water off. (If the water left in the bowl is particularly dirty or cloudy, soak the parsley again in fresh water. There may have been strong rains or some bacteria.)

Once you have shaken the parsley bunch well, set it in an upright plastic container (a large yogurt container works well) or in a zip-top bag, stems down. If they are too long, trim them to fit. Stored in the refrigerator, it should keep that way for at least a week. If you plan to use it in a day or two, then simply keep it on the counter in a large glass with a couple of inches of fresh water in the bottom. Change the water every morning. Once I start to cook, I always chop the parsley first.

Pick the leaves off, toss the stems into any stock you might have on the side, and put the chopped parsley into a clean, small bowl. I might chop some of the parsley with a pinch of sea salt and then use that on fish or chicken—or chop it with some thin slices of garlic. You can then add it to the coating of a steak or the sautéing of vegetables or mushrooms.

In the colder months, when you are slow-cooking short ribs and shanks and stews, you can take the parsley even further, adding not only finely chopped garlic but also very thin slivers of lemon peel to create a gremolata. Mince the lemon, garlic, and parsley together, adding a little salt for grip, and sprinkle that over the final dish, adding the brightness of their taste to the denseness of the slow-cooked meat.

But in basic terms, I simply chop the parsley and set it nearby. And I do that first so the parsley will only have its specific taste, rather than others from the cutting board. I will guess how much parsley I might need, and if there is any leftover, I add it to anything that is also leftover. It is the start of my cooking and the very end of my cooking.

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Parsley Sauce

MAKES 1 CUP (240 ML)

Sometimes, when it is most abundant and flavorful, I will make a quick sauce of chopped parsley, stirring the ingredients together with a fork. You can do this in a food processor, but it is so simple and even rhythmic to blend the sauce with a good dinner fork, rolling it over and over, tasting it for salt and the relation of oil and parsley. When you get it to just the right proportion, when you can dip a piece of bread into the sauce and be pleased, then it is ready. Use the sauce to enliven grilled sandwiches, to spoon over sliced meats or pieces of fish, to detail a plate of roasted vegetables, to add complexity to yogurt and hummus. Or simply grill or broil leftover breads and pitas and pieces of pizza and finish them with this lovely sauce.

Leaves from 1 bunch parsley, chopped

Flaky sea salt

¼ to ½ cup (60 to 120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium glass bowl, stir together the parsley and some salt. While stirring, slowly add the olive oil. Salt will not dissolve in olive oil, but it needs to be evenly distributed. Taste as you go. You can use a food processor, but pulse just once or twice to barely mix. Store the sauce in a jar or airtight container—it should keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

ARUGULA

You can get tired of hearing about arugula. It was one of the first greens to sashay around, acting like it was better than the hardworking Bibb and romaine and butter lettuces. The truth is, it is often quite remarkable—not all of the time, but often enough that you should always be ready when it is at its best.

Learn what it looks like when it is at its peak. The leaves are a middle green, neither pale nor dark. There is no mottling. The stems are unbroken. As it ages, the leaves get oversized and hardened, and you must pick off most of the stem.

Once the outdoor field crop is done, then you must rely on the greenhouse arugula, which is typically sold in clear plastic boxes. It is perfectly good—all the leaves are small and the same size and it is available all year long. It is, in effect, the cyborg of arugula, a technological miracle, but, as they say, not great company on long train rides. I am glad to have it in December, when little else is available, but it is not subtle enough then to be a salad all by itself. It is best used as an accessory.

But in the start of spring or the brace of fall, the arugula is simply a glory. The leaves and stems are a perfect match. The taste has a slight sweetness, and it will jump right up to lemon juice and fresh black pepper, to good salt and true vinegar, to olive oils, and even anchovies, to yogurt, and to fresh Parmesan.

When it is just right—fresh and young and bountiful—then I will use it in everything. I will toss it raw into soups just before serving. I will make a bed of it and lay grilled fish or steaks right on top. I will layer every plate with it and then put the roasted beets, potatoes, asparagus, or broccoli onto it. And I will make this salad.

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But-a-Minute Arugula Salad

SERVES 4

This salad takes but a moment. You must have good greens, a fresh lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, and very good peppercorns to make it work properly.

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Sea salt

1 teaspoon fresh Tellicherry peppercorns

¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound (455 g) fresh arugula

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

4 slices country bread, grilled (optional)

1 garlic clove (optional)

In a large stainless-steel bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of salt. The salt will, in a minute, dissolve. If you have a good adjustable pepper grinder, set it on its coarsest grind and give four turns of the grinder into the mix. If you do not have such a grinder, coarsely crack the peppercorns by hand and scrape the pieces into the bowl. Stir to combine. While stirring, slowly add the olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If the peppercorns are good, you will taste their quick, dark heat. Adjust the salt, if need be.

Lay the greens on top of the dressing. Sprinkle a little salt over them and then, with tongs or salad servers, toss the greens over a couple of times through the dressing in the bowl, quickly and lightly. Lightly set the greens on salad plates. There should be some dressing remaining in the bowl. The leaves should not be drowning in the dressing and should stand up a little on the plates. If they lay flat like wet leaves, something got too wet.

Crack more pepper on top and sprinkle the cheese around. If you grilled some bread, rub the grilled side with a little garlic and pour a thin drizzle of the leftover salad dressing across the face of the bread. Then cut the bread into a couple of strips and serve them alongside the salad.

BUTTER LETTUCE

There are at least three varieties of butter lettuce, more accurately but less prosaically named butterhead lettuce, and they all share the quality of loose and tender leaves. There is Boston, Bibb, and red leaf. Their tastes are similar and always pleasant, if not almost sweet.

Boston lettuce is slightly larger and less distinct in its leaf shape. Bibb is the most elegant in terms of size and appearance, and red leaf is the most sprawling of the bunch and seems the most economic, for the leaves can grow to twice the size of a Bibb. The butter lettuce group is so-called because their leaves are tender.

Any of the three can serve perfectly as the host of a salad, receiving all manner of contributions from other, more particular greens such as mesclun and arugula.

In contrast to other, more sturdy lettuce types, a romaine for example, the butter lettuce must be handled with certain care. The leaves must be soaked in cold water, and then rinsed gently as if they were a wide glove. They must then be drained in a large kitchen colander, and dried further in a large kitchen towel or a spinner.

If you take care in their washing and store them in perforated bags in the refrigerator, the leaves will keep perfectly for two to three days. They simply need a little personal attention. At their best, butter lettuces are the most elegant main characters in a salad or sandwich or the most memorable supporting roles beneath a main course.

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Butter Lettuce Salad, Alone

SERVES 4

This is a good way to learn why people love butter lettuce. It is a slight indulgence to only use butter lettuce.

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Sea salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 head butter lettuce, soaked, rinsed, and dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Fresh ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mix the mustard, vinegar, and some salt, and then slowly whisk in the olive oil.

Tear the lettuce leaves at least in half, but gently, and drop them into a cold salad bowl.

Pour the dressing over the greens and toss them several times to coat. Then add the chives, toss, add the cheese, and toss again. Finish with salt and pepper.

CILANTRO

I have said it before: If you want to use and understand cilantro, then use it in abundance. Once, I would chop six to eight leaves to add to rice. Now, I will chop two or three whole bunches of cilantro, stems and leaves together, by hand or in a food processor—several cups of chopped cilantro, all told—and add it to the rice.

It has its particulars: It is not easily chopped because it never gets as dry as flat-leaf parsley, for example. You must store it with some attention. It does not like moisture. In its DNA heart, it is a southern hemisphere herb.

Cilantro is the Spanish word for “coriander” and refers to the stem and leaves of the coriander plant. The seed of cilantro is called coriander. Typically, the seeds are dried and then reheated or at least mortared to a powder as a crucial spice in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Asian cuisines. The unripe coriander seed is green and rarely available. If you can get some, they are the child of cilantro and coriander in flavor, and are wonderful in sauces or dressings.

Cilantro is a true ally to parsley. They are often chopped and added together—the slight lemon flavor of the cilantro alongside the very green and fresh taste of the parsley. Make a salsa verde of them and you will see how wonderful they are together.

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Salsa Verde

MAKES 1 CUP (240 ML)

Use this salsa verde on meats and meatballs, on chicken and fish, on grilled vegetables, on lentils and beans, on soups and salads. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge, but let it come to room temperature before using. If need be, you can add a little more olive oil to thin it.

1 cup (50 g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 cup (40 g) chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Juice of 1 lemon

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed

½ cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

In a stainless-steel bowl, stir together all the ingredients except the olive oil. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil. Store in an airtight container—it will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

SWISS CHARD

I would not have made much room for Swiss chard had it not insistently shown up in my CSA-delivered vegetables. Swiss chard is a hearty one, an athlete of the greens, and it is much easier to grow than spinach and just as nutritious. It is a bit like beet greens and rhubarb—you simply need to make a little room for them in your planning.

Preparing Swiss chard is in truth quite straightforward. When it is very young, you can eat all of the leaf. Simply trim off the hard bottom stem, wash the chard very well, and add it, still wet, to a pan to blanch. Add some salt and cook it, covered, for 6 to 8 minutes or so, until it has softened. Then drain the greens, pushing the water out of them. Then they are ready to serve, and need only a little bit of red wine vinegar or lemon, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

After blanching the leaves, you can also sauté them. Do drain the water out (but do not squeeze them like a sponge—they bruise) and then lightly cut the greens into smaller pieces. Heat some olive oil in a sauté pan, add some chopped garlic and a pinch of hot red pepper flakes, and when you smell the garlic, add the greens and stir to mix. Let them sauté for 2 minutes, add some salt and pepper, and they are ready.

If the Swiss chard is more mature, as is often the case, then separate the leaves from the tough stalk and deal with the leaves and stems separately. Cook the leaves as above. For the stalks, cut them into shorter lengths, and put them into a pot of salted boiling water for 18 to 20 minutes, until they are soft. Drain the stalks and use them as you will the leaves—sautéed, dressed, or as additions to soups.

When you get Swiss chard, think of making soup. It is brilliant in soup, especially minestrones and bean soups that have the strength and volume to take up the chard. You can add the uncooked stems and greens at the start of a soup, or blanch them and add them later.

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Swiss Chard and a Few White Beans

SERVES 3 TO 4

If you have some fresh Swiss chard and want a quick sampler as an appetizer, try it with some cooked cannellini beans. Swiss chard loves being with beans.

¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 pound (455 g) fresh Swiss chard, soaked, rinsed well, and chopped into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

¼ cup (40 g) cooked cannellini beans

Choose a sauté pan that can hold the Swiss chard and heat it over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the garlic and, moments later, the Swiss chard. (If the chard is mature and stiff, then cover the pan to get more heat to it. If the chard is young, you can cook it uncovered.) Add some salt and ground pepper and stir it all to mix.

The chard should be ready in 6 to 8 minutes. Taste a piece, and if it is tender, add the cannellini beans. Stir well, to combine the beans into the greens. When the beans are heated through, serve in a warm bowl with extra olive oil and more grinds of black pepper.

THE FIVE LIQUIDS

Olive Oil / Vinegars / Stock /

Water / Alcohol

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OLIVE OIL

It is not a simple matter to choose your olive oil. There are too many factors, too many places to hide (the packaging often being better than the oil), and too many customers. It was once, even ten years ago, a quite simple matter to find a good olive oil and, when you felt wealthy or worthy, a very good olive oil. But the customers for olive oil have multiplied tenfold: People have learned to love its taste, to trust its nature, to believe in its quietly mythic assets. Climates have become more fragile, entire seasons have been lost to uncommon droughts and rains, and the sheer pressure of modernism has threatened the supply—and, of course, broadened the attempts to grow olives wherever it might be possible.

You must now be more cautious. Many olive oils are a blend, which is not in itself a terrible matter, but they are often concealing a weakness of quality. For my part, I simply want an honest olive oil. I do not want it to be deceitful regarding its origin or its value. I want its taste to be authentic, and I want its provenance to be accurate.