It was 90 degrees the other day in Los Angeles, but I desperately wanted it to look like fall! Specifically, the New York fall setting for “Only Murders in the Building”. I’ve watched it lately, and I’m completely charmed by the character of Martin Short – the catastrophically confident stage director in a long blue coat who almost entirely survives on dips.
I designed my own fall vibes. I put a large pot of mantequilla beans to simmer and rummaged through the crisper to make a large refrigerator gratin, filled with baby fennel, shiitake mushrooms, kohlrabi and those tender beans. It was a riff on Chef Naomi Pomeroy’s fennel gratin with a cheese bechamel sauce and breadcrumbs toasted in butter with garlic, then mixed with chopped fennel leaves.
You might think of a gratin as a special French dish – thinly sliced potatoes roasted in cream – but neither cream nor potatoes are necessary. Almost anything can be au gratin, if you slide it under the grill for a few minutes and let it bubble and brown. Beet leaves and kale? To verify. Chard and sweet corn? Absoutely. Turnips ? Parsnip? Cabbage? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
But back to that jar of beans. Add a bunch of washed and chopped rainbow chard and a bit of flowery doenjang in hot oil, and you’ve got Eric Kim’s new recipe for beans and greens. Or, toss the beans with sweet and savory glazed plantains and chopped green onions, and you’ve got Yewande Komolafe’s dream breakfast dish (which also works for lunch and dinner).
If you’re stuck on the idea of a crispy-edged gratin, as I often am, you can opt for Ali Slagle’s White Bean and Tomato Cheese Bake and add a bunch of greens like cabbage. curly or spinach, to make it even more filling. You can absolutely use cooked dry beans, but if you’d rather take a can, the dish and all the cozy fall vibes that come with it will be ready in just 15 minutes.
White Bean and Tomato Cheese Baking
Go to the recipe.
One more thing !
If you don’t have a doenjang in the fridge yet, which you’ll need for Eric’s beans and greens, consider this a boost to go buy some. Korean soybean paste is an extraordinary, nuanced, super funky vegan ingredient that creates great flavors in stews and soups, and also keeps in the fridge for centuries. Once you start cooking with it, you won’t look back.
You can even try making your own, especially if you’re interested in the handcrafted versions. Maangchi shares her method here, which involves keeping the crushed soybeans warm and comfortable, and then fermenting the blocks for almost a year. It really makes you appreciate the time and skill involved in producing this ingredient.