They had called me, and I had returned. “They” being the gorgeous bunches of deep green curly kale, lacinato kale, rainbow chard, green and red cabbage, spinach, bok choy, red bok choy, napa cabbage. All gathered together at a favorite nearby natural foods store.
I had walked past them the day before, admiringly, but continued on. I’d had my list, and decided to stick to it. I don’t always stick to my list. I’m certainly not averse to inspiration. But it was the end of a long day, and it just seemed a good idea to mind the list. What’s spontaneous and inspiring with a clear head in the light of day can be muddled randomness with a less clear, very tired head at the end of the day. You buy things you don’t get around to using, they go bad, you feel guilty…. So, I skipped the greens.
But I guess they spent some time in my subconscious overnight, because the next morning I knew I wanted greens and beans for dinner. And that cornbread would be the thing to have with that. And even though it was a day off, with seemingly loads of time at my disposal, even time for lunch with a very good friend, my dinner ended up being bought and made at the end of what turned out to unexpectedly be another long day.
Still, I knew what I wanted, and the bag in my arms contained the ingredients to have it. So I walked in the door, took off my coat, and put on my apron. I didn’t even change clothes like I usually do when I get home. I turned on the oven, and began the cornbread, which is a quick thing to do from scratch really. A few dry ingredients in a bowl, to which you add your liquids, pour into a greased baking dish, and into the oven for 20 or 25 minutes.
And I began to relax. I took the large can of cannellini beans out of the bag, and then the two bunches of greens I’d chosen. Curly kale, so substantial and hearty, and the red bok choy, because it was just so beautiful.
I rinsed the greens and spun them dry in the salad spinner. I put a pan on the stove to heat, added oil and a few cloves of minced garlic. Trimming off the very end of the stalks where they were dried out, I continued by slicing the stalk into thin slices, then cutting the leaves in half vertically, and cutting those halves into nice bite-sized pieces. As I chopped each stalk and leaf I added it to the pan.
It was a full pan of greens, glistening as I turned them in the oil. When they’d cooked down a little, I added salt and pepper, and then a couple cups of vegetable stock to simmer in, followed by the rinsed cannellini beans. Stirred it all together. Checked for seasoning. I put the lid on to let it all heat through, and then took the lid off to let some of the broth cook off, but not too much, because, of course, there was cornbread, and it was going to need something to soak up.
The beans were soft and creamy. The greens were hearty and light. It’s the kind of dish that is open to variations: different beans, different greens, maybe the addition of cubed potatoes one day or mushrooms on another, cracked red pepper flakes for a little kick or a dried or fresh herb to complement.
But it’s always satisfying, even at its most basic.
As it was that night.