Culinary Corner: Beans and Greens… It’s a Pittsburgh thing

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Hartman, Adviser

Most places in our great big country have local food dishes that are pretty specific to the region. Pittsburgh, PA is no different. Having grown up in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, I keep fond memories of a number of dishes that I simply can’t find outside of that place I used to call home. Beans and Greens is one such dish. A simple and easy comfort food that really isn’t worthy of menu space in a restaurant. But, just about every Italian restaurant in the Pittsburgh region features some take on this basic dish. My take is a little different from the classic, but I figure since I’m a native to the region, I can do what I please with the dish and still call it ‘a Pittsburgh thing’.

Ingredients:

3-5 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion (diced)

4 cloves garlic (diced)

1/2 pound bacon (traditional recipes use Italian sausage but I opt for the smokey flavor of bacon and then add red pepper flakes to add the heat one would get from spicy sausage)

1 package baby spinach (again traditional recipes use escarole but spinach works pretty much the same and it’s easier to find)

2 tomatoes (or one can of diced tomatoes)

2 cups chicken broth

2 cans cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)

1 tbsp red pepper flakes (cut this in half if you don’t like spicy)

1 tbsp oregano (dried)

1 tbsp parsely (dried)

2 tsp basil (dried)

1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

 

Recipe:

The first step is to cook the bacon. A thick cut of bacon is preferable (I make my own bacon so it’s all pretty much thick cut), and I also prefer baking the bacon on a broiler pan to cut down the grease. Preheat oven to 400 and place bacon on a middle rack for about 45 minutes flipping the individual pieces about half way through the cooking time.

 

mince onions and garlic and chop tomatoes (a can of diced tomatoes will also work just fine). I would recommend getting all the ingredients ready before you start cooking because the dish only takes about 20-25 minutes and once you start, the process goes very quickly.

The Pittsburgh themed apron is optional. 🙂

Heat dutch oven (or a big sauce pot) over medium heat. Add oil, garlic and onion. When the onion turns translucent, add tomatoes, bacon, chicken stock, and spices. Stir as it comes back up to temp and begins to simmer. Add beans and stir until the dish begins to thicken (about seven to ten minutes).

Add spinach and a half cup of parmesan. Once the spinach wilts, stir it in and remove from heat. Ladle a serving into a bowl, finish with a generous pinch of fresh grated parmesan, and serve warm.