One of my earliest ideas for the menu at La Buvette came from opening a can of cooked judión beans—giant white beans imported from Spain—and seasoning them with a bit of olive oil, Maldon salt, and bergamot zest. I never anticipated that these beans would turn into something that people would come from all over the planet to eat. The key to this very simple dish is the fresh citrus grated on top, which brightens up the flavor of the beans. I change the citrus from bergamot to mandarin to lemon or citron— whatever looks most appealing for the season. In the spring when foraging season begins, I sometimes decorate the beans with edible flowers, such as chive flowers or garlic flowers. But I don’t dare change much else, and I can never take them off the menu (I tried once and everyone kept asking, “Where are the beans?”). Today, I suppose that gros haricots blancs & zeste de citron have become La Buvette’s “famous” beans, but I say it with a wink—can beans from a can truly be famous?
The beans I use come ready to eat. Look for cans or jars of plump judión, gigante, corona, or any large, tender beans you can find. Before using, rinse them well. Depending on what else is on the table, plan on 1⁄2 to 1 cup of beans per person.