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Grilled Bread with Fresh Shell Beans and Escarole

Grilled Bread with Fresh Shell Beans and Escarole
Although fresh shell beans can be found in markets during July and August, the abundance and variety increase during late summer and into the autumn months. The palette is enormous, from American varieties such as cranberry, pinto and lima to Italian borlotti and cannellini and French flageolets. Each pod contains three or four beans. They take a bit of work to shell but are well worth the effort.


  • 1 lb. fresh shell beans
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus olive oil for brushing
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 18 slices country-style bread, about 3 inches in diameter
  • 1/2 head escarole, cored and cut into strips 1 inch wide
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • Small pinch of red pepper flakes


Shell the beans. Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the beans and cook until very soft, about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the liquid.

Prepare a fire in a grill or preheat a broiler. In a fry pan over medium heat, combine the beans, garlic, sage and 2 Tbs. of the oil. Cook, mashing the beans with a spoon or potato masher and adding the reserved cooking liquid as needed to keep the mixture moist, until a rough paste forms, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and continue mashing the beans to form a smooth paste. Alternatively, pulse the mixture in a food processor fitted with the metal blade or in a blender. Season with salt and pepper.

Lightly brush the bread slices on both sides with olive oil and place on the grill rack or on a baking sheet. Grill or broil, turning once, until golden on both sides, 30 to 60 seconds on each side. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In another fry pan over high heat, warm the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Add the escarole and cook, tossing frequently with tongs, until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Mix well.

To serve, spread the bean puree on the grilled or toasted bread, dividing it evenly. Top with the wilted escarole and serve immediately.
Makes 18 pieces; serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Autumn, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).