It seems like just about everyone is rediscovering the joy of cooking a big pot of beans. They are inexpensive, nourishing, shelf-stable, and incredibly versatile. One of my favorite ways to prepare white beans of any variety—from cannellini to great northern—is to boil them with a bit of onion and garlic and, once they’re tender, cool the beans with a generous amount of buttermilk and fresh garlic. As they soak, the buttermilk adds lots of acidity and tanginess, while the garlic adds depth of flavor (toasty warmth from the cooked garlic, fragrant spice from the fresh garlic).
This recipe is written for four people for dinner, but it can easily be doubled or quadrupled to last throughout the week. The versatility of beans really kicks in when you have extra beans on hand. These buttermilk beans blend into a creamy dip with a couple of spins in a food processor. Or they can be lightly mashed and bound with a bit of flour to make fritters. Or they can be thinned with water or chicken stock to make a soup. Or add some roasted cherry tomatoes and spoon the whole thing on some thick toast. Plus, they freeze well, too.
This style of cooking the greens over high heat, then adding eggs, is my go-to one-pan method for a hearty breakfast. You can also cook the greens first, set them aside, wipe out the pan, and fry the eggs separately if that’s easier for you. —abraberens
Test Kitchen Notes
Every month, in Eat Your Vegetables, chef, Ruffage cookbook author, and former farmer Abra Berens shares a seasonal recipe that puts vegetables front and center (where they should be!). Missed an installment? Head here to catch up. —The Editors
- Prep time 8 hours
- Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
- Serves 4
Extra-virgin olive oil (or unsalted butter)
yellow onion, sliced thinly
garlic cloves, minced
dried white beans (such as cannellini, gigante, or great northern)
kosher salt, plus more to taste
(10 leaves) hearty greens (such as kale, chard, or rapini), cut into ribbons
chile flakes (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
- In a medium to large saucepan, heat several glugs of olive oil or knobs of butter over medium heat. Add the thyme sprigs and fry until fragrant and the leaves have stopped making the popping sound, about 1 minute. Add the onion and half the garlic, then reduce the heat to low and sweat until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the beans and enough water to cover by 2 to 3 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the beans are completely tender and creamy, and the water is mostly absorbed. This should take 45 to 75 minutes, depending on the variety and age.
- When they’re done, remove the beans from the heat and add the rest of the garlic, the salt, and buttermilk. Stir to combine, cover, transfer to the fridge, then allow the beans to cool in the buttermilk—at least 30 minutes, but ideally overnight.
- Before serving, remove the sprigs of thyme (don’t worry if some leaves break up into the broth) and gently warm the beans over low heat. When the beans are warm, taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
- In a large frying pan, heat a glug of olive oil over high heat until almost smoking, then add the greens and a big pinch of salt. Sautée the greens until they are bright in color and starting to soften. Add the white wine and chile flakes (if using) and allow the wine to evaporate by half.
- Reduce the heat to medium and make four divots in the greens. Drizzle more olive oil into the greens and crack an egg into each divot. Season the eggs with salt and black pepper. Cover the pan with a lid to steam the eggs—5 to 6 minutes, checking frequently toward the end so they don’t overcook.
- Dish the beans into serving bowls. Scoop a nest of greens and an egg from the pan and nestle on top of the beans. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and serve on its own, or with a thick slice of toast.