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.

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 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

Steps

Step 1

Add hazelnuts to a food processor; pulse to form small, breadcrumb-sized pieces, about 3 pulses at 5 seconds each. Set aside.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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