Recently a foodie friend posted pictures of this recipe on her FB feed, and I knew I had to try it—thanks Deb! She informed me it’s from “Mostly Plants” by Tracy Pollan, an Emmy award-nominated actress who has enjoyed a successful career in television, film, and on the Broadway stage—and is the wife of Michael J. Fox.
In October 2014, Pollan, along with her two sisters and mother, co-authored the multiple award winning The Pollan Family Table, a cookbook of family recipes, kitchen tips and cooking techniques. Based on the outcome of this dish, I’m curious to try some more from the Pollan family…
If you’ve ever had chicken or veal piccata, you are familiar with the flavor components of tangy lemon, briny capers and aromatic garlic all combined together in a silken butter sauce. Paired with spinach with its range of valuable vitamins and minerals, and navy beans with their high nutritive value and protein content, you got one healthy meal here!
Our changes: Instead of four skinless fillets, we cooked the skin-on salmon whole which required a few minutes longer on each side. In lieu of canned navy beans, which the grocery store didn’t have, we used Great Northern. And there was a lot of liquid in the sauce so the cooking time was nearly doubled to reduce it enough before adding the butter.
In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Slowly add the spinach and cook, stirring until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the beans and season with salt and pepper, mix until combined. Cook until the beans are warm, about 2 minutes; remove from heat.
In a separate large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the grapeseed oil until shimmering. Gently add the fillets and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until light golden brown. Transfer fillets to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
Add the shallots to the hot skillet and cook, stirring until translucent, about 1 minute.
Add the broth, wine, lemon juice and capers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced slightly, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the butter, and when melted, add 2 tablespoons of parsley and stir.
Distribute the sautéed spinach and beans on a serving platter (or divided amongst 4 individual plates). Top with the salmon fillets and spoon the sauce over the fish.
Sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and top with lemon slices. Serve hot.
Super flavorful and hearty, you’ll be wanting more of this soup after just one spoonful. The key to its success is homemade ham broth, not something most home cooks have readily available, but Russ gives you step-by-step directions below. That being said, the ham broth is essential. If you don’t have any, it becomes an altogether different soup, both in taste and process.
It is a huge time commitment, so pick a day where you have a large chunk of it to work with. And if you also need to make ham stock, do that a day or two (or week) ahead of time.
This is a good recipe to use after a large ham dinner such as at Easter, or some other family gathering or pot luck party.
1 lb. dried navy beans, soaked in 4 quarts of water with 3 tablespoons of salt for 8-24 hours
4 thick slices bacon, diced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ham bone
2 1/2 -3 cups ham, shredded or diced
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 bay leaf
3-4 fresh thyme sprigs
8 cups ham broth (see recipe below)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. pimentón dulce (smoked paprika)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Rinse beans under cool water and remove any small stones or debris. Add 4 quarts water and 3 tablespoons of salt to a large pot and stir until salt is dissolved. Add the rinsed beans and soak at least and up to 24 hours.
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add the diced bacon, and cook until bacon has released its fat and is fully cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the onions, carrots, celery, and sprinkle with a large pinch of salt. Sauté the vegetables until the onions begin to soften. Drain and rinse the soaked beans and add to the pot, then add the bay leaf, ham bone, and ham broth*. Turn heat to high and bring mixture to a simmer (be careful not to boil it to avoid bursting the beans), then lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
Once beans are tender, stir in the ham and cooked bacon and continue to simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme branches. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add the pimentón and parsley. Serve.
*Note: If you don’t have pre-made ham stock, you can make your own easily following the instructions below.
2 lbs. smoked ham hocks or smoked pork necks or a mix, lightly rinsed and drained
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed (no need to peel it)
1 large stalk celery with leaves, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, scrubbed and roughly chopped
½ cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. whole peppercorns
1 tsp. salt
4 quarts water
Heat the oil in a large soup or stock pot over medium-high. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot and sauté them until they are caramelized. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits in the bottom of the pot, and boil until the wine is reduced by half.
Add the ham hocks and/or smoked pork necks and the remaining ingredients, including the water, and bring the pot to a simmer over high heat. Immediately lower the heat to medium-low or low and continue to simmer the stock, uncovered, until it reduces by a half, skimming any foam or scum that rises to the surface (about 2–4 hours). Do not stir the stock while it simmers.
Strain the stock through a colander into another large pot or container. When the solids have cooled enough to handle, you can pick the meat off the shank and/or neck bones and reserve for the soup. At this point, you can proceed with the Ham and Bean Soup recipe above.