Borlotti Beans with Hazelnut Breadcrumbs
I love breadcrumbs. So much depth of flavor and texture from such a humble ingredient! I started making this version, made from nuts instead of bread or Panko, when I was the Recipe Developer & Tester at EatingWell Magazine. Someone had leftover ground almonds from a recipe test, so I toasted them in a skillet using my usual breadcrumb treatment: olive oil, lemon zest, and a lightly crushed clove of garlic. I scattered them generously over dressed escarole, which I accidentally over-ordered (sorry), and called it staff lunch. The result was so fragrant, nutty, and crunchy I began to riff on it using any nut I could find. Here, hazelnuts take center stage, along with meaty borlotti beans (also called cranberry beans). Use whatever sturdy beans you have on hand — be they canned (drained, rinsed) or cooked from dry — and keep the quantities consistent. I’ve used butter beans, gigante beans, canned cannellini beans, and even 1-inch slices of quickly blanched French beans for this recipe, with good results.
- 4 cups cooked beans, such as borlotti (or drained and rinsed canned beans)
- 1 cup toasted skinless hazelnuts
- 1 medium fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced (about 2 cups), fronds reserved
- 1 large navel orange
- 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 small clove garlic, lightly crushed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
Add hazelnuts to a food processor; pulse to form small, breadcrumb-sized pieces, about 3 pulses at 5 seconds each. Set aside.
Zest 1 tablespoon lemon rind into a small bowl and set aside; reserve the rest of the lemon. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add hazelnut breadcrumbs, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toast, stirring frequently, until fragrant and starting to brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in reserved lemon zest. Spread evenly on a large plate to cool.
Meanwhile, juice the reserved lemon into a large bowl. Zest 2 tablespoons orange rind into the bowl; save the rest of the orange. Whisk in vinegar and remaining salt, then whisk in remaining olive oil.
Cut the skin and white pith from the orange, then slice the flesh into 1/2–inch rounds; add to the large bowl. Thinly slice the thicker stalks of the reserved fennel fronds; finely chop the feathery tops. Add both to the bowl, along with the fennel bulb and beans. Gently toss to combine.
Using a rubber spatula to get all the dressing, scrape the bean salad onto a large serving platter. Scatter with hazelnut breadcrumbs and parsley.photo by H.B. Wilcox Photography