This recipe was inspired by chef Dan Barber and his staff at the Blue Hill Restaurant at Stone Barns in New York, where greens and herbs go straight from their farm to the making of this complementary pesto.
You'll have extra pesto, which is wonderful stirred into soups, pasta dishes and bean salads.
- For the stew
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 2 or 3 pieces
- 1/2 rib celery, cut into 2 or 3 pieces
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into quarters
- 1/4 medium fennel bulb
- 1 3- to 4-ounce piece of pancetta
- 1 pound yellow eye, vaquero, marrow or white runner beans, soaked and drained (see related TIPS on soaking and cooking)
- 3 cups store-bought or homemade low-sodium chicken broth
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the pesto
- 4 cornichons, drained
- 2 teaspoons capers, drained
- 3/4 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 large soft-cooked egg
- 1 oil-packed anchovy fillet
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups arugula leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup chervil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup tarragon leaves, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
For the stew: Combine the thyme, parsley and bay leaf on a piece of cheesecloth. Gather the corners and tie the bundle securely with kitchen twine.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, onion, fennel and pancetta; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften and caramelize. Add the beans, the cheesecloth bundle of herbs, chicken broth and enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low or low and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours, until the beans are just tender.
Transfer the beans and their broth to a large bowl and let cool. Remove and discard the vegetables, pancetta and cheesecloth bundle. Drain the beans, reserving the broth.
While the beans are cooking, make the pesto: Combine the cornichons, capers, mustard, garlic, egg and anchovy in a blender. With the motor running, slowly add the oil until it is completely incorporated. Add the arugula, spinach, chervil and 1/2 cup of tarragon; puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Combine the beans and their reserved broth in a medium saucepan and heat gently over medium-low heat. Add about 1 cup of the pesto and stir to incorporate, making sure not to let the stew boil. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Ladle the stew into individual warmed bowls. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of tarragon and the parsley; serve hot.
Adapted from "Heirloom Beans," by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington (Chronicle, 2008).
Tested by Mary Pat Flaherty.
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