Tuesday, May 6, 2008

cannenelli bean salad with chorizo and mint pesto

So you've invested in the chorizo for the scallops português, and now you have leftover links sitting in your freezer that you're afraid you'll never use. Not to worry, your money and the tasty chorizo have not gone to waste. Defrost one chorizo link immediately and let's get cooking.

I saw a version of this recipe on Food & Wine as white bean and chorizo salad with olives. My recipe uses cannenelli beans, the leftover chorizo from your scallops, asparagus, and mint.

I decided to try making a mint pesto, the freshness of which I thought would be a great contrast to the spicy chorizo. My first attempt at making the pesto was a disaster: I chopped mint, olive oil, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper using my Cuisinart, and it came out tasting like the bastard child version of basil pesto. The olive oil was too overpowering for the delicate flavor of mint, and the cheese and nuts completely obliterated any discernible mint taste. The pesto came out white from the cheese and the nuts and from over-processing the mint leaves. My second attempt was better: I used a bit of water, walnut oil, salt and pepper. The result was better; as I suspected, the sparse use of mild walnut oil was less pungent than olive oil, and the water helped to make it more into a paste. I also didn't chop it in the Cuisinart for long, just enough to chop the leaves finely, and then I finished the mixing by hand. This time, the mint was more flavorful, but it still was not quite right. I succeeded in my third attempt when I minced the mint by hand, then mixed it in a bowl with walnut oil and water again by hand, adding a pinch of salt (no pepper) to enhance the taste, and (secret ingredient!) a hint of lemon rind for freshness. More rustic, more minty.

It seems to me that mint is a very delicate, self-effacing little herb that is brilliant on its own, but doesn't mix so well in a crowd. However, by using this more rustic, hand-made preparation, the fresh mint succeeded in providing a tasty contrast to the rich beans and chorizo. Served either cold or hot, this dish works in all seasons.

And see? You used your chorizo again.


Serves 4 as a side

For the mint pesto:

2 c packed, fresh mint leaves
Walnut Oil (or another mild oil, i.e. canola oil, almond oil)
Lemon rind
(all to taste)

For the beans:

1 small, thumb-sized shallot
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 link spicy Chorizo
4 (or more) Asparagus stalks
1 can (about 2 c) Cannenelli beans, rinsed completely
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Rinse mint, and dry by rolling in paper towel. Mince leaves into fine pieces. Be careful not to overwork. Transfer mint to a small bowl, mix with walnut oil and water, just enough of both to create a manageable paste. Grate in a pinch of lemon rind, toss in a pinch of salt, to taste. Set aside.

Cut the link of chorizo into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. (If using uncooked chorizo, the interior will crumble when you cut it. To avoid messy meat, you may want to roast chorizo in the oven at 400◦ Fahrenheit until link is firm and mostly cooked, about 20-30mins. Once chorizo is firm on the inside, it will cut neatly and easily.)

Bring water to a boil in a small pot. Salt water, add asparagus stalks and blanch until just tender, about 1 minute. Strain and immediately rinse in cold water. Cut stalks into bite-sized pieces, angling each cut on the bias. Set aside.

Heat a medium-sized sauce pan on medium heat. While pan is heating, remove skin from shallot. Cut shallot in half, lengthwise, set aside. When pan is hot, add olive oil to pan, enough to cover bottom. Returning to the shallot, use your fingers to peel it apart, and toss in whole pieces to the pan as you go along. (This preparation will lend an onion flavor to the dish without leaving behind fibers of onion that would distract from the simplicity of the dish.) Add garlic, reduce to medium heat. Cook until shallot pieces become transparent. Add chorizo and asparagus, and sauté until they brown.

For a hot dish, add beans directly to pan. Add about 1/3 cup water or chicken stock, and turn down to a simmer. When liquid is mostly evaporated or thickened, turn off heat. Remove pieces of shallot and garlic, discard. Transfer beans to a large mixing bowl, and toss with mint pesto. Add spoonfuls of mint pesto to your taste. Serve warm.

For a cold dish, turn off heat in pan and remove pieces of shallot and garlic. Transfer chorizo to a large mixing bowl, add beans. Toss with mint pesto. Serve with a garnish of mint.

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