These last couple of weeks have tested my resolve to embrace winter. It’s been snowing non-stop (yay!) and then ruthlessly dumping buckets of freezing rain on top of the snow (not-so-yay), then melting and snowing and freezing again, making it impossible to walk anywhere without risking a serious groin injury. Plus, it’s just been dark. Despite pounding vitamin D, I’ve been grumpy, pressing snooze on my alarm clock between 5 and 7 times before rushing to the stove to make a pot of burned coffee and turning on my computer to start the work day. Even my new winter coat doesn’t seem as puffy or as exciting to put on anymore. It’s just a regular coat now. It lost its innocence when a city bus drenched us in dirty ice water head to toe.
Luckily Anthony bought me this Classic Nordic Cooking book for Christmas and now whenever I get gloomy about the weather, I try to deal with my mood like I imagine the stylish Scandinavian people in this book do, and one thing that they do a lot is eat open faced sandwiches (a.k.a. smørrebrød).
To create the recipe for this open faced sandwich featuring the ever delicious “white bean rapini” flavour combo, I’ve broken a couple of the traditional smørrebrød rules (Like, I could only find regular rye bread – not sourdough rye – at the time, and I’m lacking some pickled garnishes, AND I toasted the bread. Someone in Denmark is shaking their fist at me. I’m truly sorry.) but it wasn’t in vain. This lemony white bean rapini topping is amuse-bouchey enough to be eaten on its own. The thick slice of rye adds elegance and substance, turning what might be mistaken for a side into a full meal. The buttery beans balance the bitterness of the rapini (accidental alliteration!) and the parmesan adds some necessary salty sharpness.
However, like a true smørrebrød, this sandwich is slathered in butter and it does demand to be “gently attacked with a fork and knife.” Skip the cutlery and your beans will be all over the floor.
Anyhow, this white bean rapini toast may have been inspired by Danish smørrebrød, yes, but also there was the fact that “something involving white bean + rapini” has been on the “recipe idea/blog imagination creation deliciousness” list in my notes app for almost a year now, ever since white bean rapini soups and white bean rapini pastas started filling up my news feed and making me hungry last winter.
Rapini is a bit of an acquired taste, at least it was for me when we first met 4 years ago at a dinner party hosted by an extremely Italian neuroscientist. I used to consume it solely in a dish served at the same dinner party (in a giant tin foil casserole pan) and I don’t know the name of it, but Anthony and I now refer to it as “Celebration Pasta” because it’s slathered in mozzarella and sausage. (We loved Celebration Pasta so much that we started making it every time there was something to celebrate, but then we started inventing reasons to celebrate just so we could eat the pasta and things were getting a little out of hand.) Now, I appreciate rapini’s finer features; it’s bitter, but smart, like the mean goth girl in the back of the classroom. I don’t necessarily need to cover up its flavour with tons of cheese.
Like the wannabe Scandinavians that we are, A and I also bought cross country skis! Apparently cross country skiing is Ottawa’s *sport of choice*, by which I mean I was very surprised to learn that people in Ottawa talk about going skiing on the weekend just as much as people in Vancouver – only in Ottawa, they mean cross country skiing rather than down hill skiing (it’s kind of flat here, have you heard?). So we’re just going to jump right in and become real Ottawatonians (Ottawanians?). We’ve only been skiing together once so far, but it was fun (in a stoic and incredibly laborious kind of way)!
But listen, the key is not to compare cross country skiing to down hill skiing. Rather, compare it to walking. Cross country skiing is a much more fun way to get places in the snow than by walking. Cross country skiing is not a more fun way to get places than down hill skiing and anyone who says so is a maniac.
You can eat now!
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small lemon
- 1 anchovy filet (optional)*
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 a bunch of rapini
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 (425 g) can white beans, rinsed
- 2 tbsp finely grated parmesan, plus more for serving
- Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add half the lemon (thinly sliced), garlic, and anchovy, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Anchovy should be falling apart and lemon slices should have brown spots.
- Add rapini to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, until bright green and tender.
- Add beans and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 5 more minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.
- Mix in parmesan and continue simmering until liquid is almost entirely absorbed.
- Remove mixture from heat and remove lemon pith from mixture. Serve on top of generously buttered rye toast, topped with more parmesan and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- You can eat now!
- If you are vegetarian, feel free to remove the anchovy, but if you are merely squeamish about fish, fear not. The anchovy is only there because it lends the dish a bit of umami; it doesn't leave a fishy flavour at all.