Hardly a revelatory combination, beans and greens are typically spruced up with the standard flavors of Italy and southern regions of the United States. But I can only eat greens sauteed with garlic so many times before I start thinking I’m sick of the greens when, in fact, I’m actually sick of the repetitive flavors.
So I decided to branch out a bit and added some Asian flare to this hearty yet healthy dish.
Part of my inspiration stemmed from the greens themselves, as broccoli rabe’s slightly bitter profile would clearly benefit from the bright and zesty ginger and the mild sweetness of the pea shoots. And, as I’ve mentioned before, pea shoots themselves taste similar to the snap peas found so often in Asian stir fry recipes, so I knew they’d be a natural match for a spicy Asian dish. But beans?
Well, I can’t recall ever seeing beans featured in any of the wide variety of Asian meals I’ve had, except my favorite Vietnamese red bean and coconut milk
drink dessert. Certainly not in a stir fry. But I had these lovely heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo on hand and already cooked, and I wanted to do something different with them. And why shouldn’t I?
So I got to stir frying. Because some people find broccoli rabe unpleasantly bitter (myself sometimes included, depending on the batch), I mellowed out the flavor by subjecting the rabe to a one-minute steaming session. To make the process streamlined, I completed this while the onions, garlic, ginger, and sesame seeds were sauteeing on the stove to create a lovely base flavor.
I then added the rabe and cooked beans to the onion mixture, sauteed everything for a few minutes, stirred in the pea shoots, cooked everything together just a couple minutes more, and dinner was done! Of course, it helped that I had already cooked the beans a few days earlier, but you can also substitute your favorite canned beans in a pinch.
Although this beans and greens dish is filling enough to be a meal on its own, you can also serve it over some farro or brown rice (or white rice – I’m not judging; just use what you have on hand!) to sop up some of the delicious sauce. Top it with a spoonful of Asian chili paste, chili-garlic sauce, or Sriracha if you’re a fellow lover of spicy foods, and this healthy yet satisfying stir fry makes for a wonderful dinner, as well as great leftovers.
Heirloom Beans, Broccoli Rabe and Pea Shoots No-Oil Stir Fry
Spinach, other greens, or even regular broccoli can be substituted for broccoli rabe and/or pea shoots if you can’t find them. Also, while I highly recommend Rancho Gordo’s beans (available for purchase online, at their store in wine country, and at San Francisco’s farmers market in the Ferry Building on Saturdays), you can also substitute your favorite dense, rich, but mild-flavored canned beans.
1 c. bean broth, vegetable stock, or water, divided (or 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 c. stock)
1/3 c. white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. ginger, minced
1 Tbsp. hulled raw sesame seeds
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 to 1 1/2 c.), chopped in thirds or quarters lengthwise
1/2 bunch pea shoots (about 1 1/2 c.), chopped in halves or thirds lengthwise
1/2 c. cooked Rancho Gordo Vallarta beans, or other dense, rich but mild-flavored bean like the (white) navy bean
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
Sambal Oelek chili paste or Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce for garnish
green onions, sliced thinly for garnish (optional)
In large pan over medium heat, bring 1/2 c. broth to a boil (or heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil). Add onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a pot. Insert steamer basket, add broccoli rabe, cover, and steam for 1 minute. Remove rabe, and transfer to an ice water bath to stop the cooking and preserve the bright green color. Once chilled, drain the rabe, and set aside. Do ahead: this step can be done up to three days in advance, and steamed rabe can be stored in an airtight, refrigerated container until ready to use.
One onions are translucent, add sesame seeds and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 minute. Add rabe, beans, and remaining 1/2 c. broth to pan, and cook 3 minutes. Stir in pea shoots, and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and serve immediately, topped with a spoonful of Asian chili paste or Sriracha and a sprinkling of green onions.