Wednesday, 20 May 2015 | 32 comments

Skillet greens & beans with anchovy breadcrumbs

I am a big fan of my annual greens garden. Greens are easy. They come early in the season. Reward-to-risk ratio is high. This year, I direct seeded a mix of lettuces, kale, and mustard greens into a bed close to the kitchen. They come up fast and thick, and by the time we got back from our honeymoon in Maine (!), it was time to start harvesting.

The best part about lettuces and leafy greens is that the immature plant is just a miniature version of the same thing that you eat. Unlike, say, a tomato blossom, which is the less exciting (for eating, at least) precursor to a tomato, tiny kale is just as edible as big kale. So as we thin out the seedlings in the garden, we eat.

A basketful of baby greens is a good starting point for dinner with the help of a few pantry staples. This one uses a couple cans of cannellini beans (of course you could cook dried ones and use those, too, person-with-more-foresight-than-I), the bag of breadcrumbs I keep in the freezer, and a can of anchovy filets. The hardest part is that you have to get two prep dishes dirty: a skillet for the meal, and another one or a baking sheet for toasting breadcrumbs. But really, all things considered, this is eminently doable on a weeknight. Especially if your weeknight includes a bottle of white wine.

A word about anchovies: I like anchovies a lot in certain applications, but don’t think that they play well with everything. So as a temperate anchovy lover, believe me when I say that this is good use for them. They’re mashed up with garlic in a dressing that you use on both the breadcrumbs and on the beans and greens themselves. In combination with other assertive ingredients, anchovies do their best to add complexity without much fishiness. If you don’t love them, this might be your gateway drug.

Skillet beans & greens with anchovy breadcrumbs

As with many of the things I cook, the garlic-anchovy oil and breadcrumbs are adapted from Melissa Clark (via Epicurious)
Yes, you can make this without the anchovies. But it’s not the same.

Serves 4 as a side dish; 2 generously as a main dish.

You’ll need

  1. 2 8-ounce cans of cannellini beans, or beans of your choice, or dried and cooked bean equivalent
  2. 3 garlic cloves, crushed, peeled, and finely chopped
  3. 4 anchovy filets, finely chopped
  4. 1/2 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons, separated
  5. 1 cup breadcrumbs from a day old loaf of bread
  6. 1 cup grated firm or hard, slightly funky, aged cheese of your choice, such as manchego, gruyere, or pecorino romano
  7. Kosher salt
  8. Freshly ground pepper
  9. Juice of one half a lemon
  10. 4 cups baby leafy greens, or chopped mature kale, mustards, collards, or other leafy greens


  1. If using canned beans, rinse them well in a colander and let drain. Similarly, use a colander to drain cooking liquid away from cooked dried beans.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Mix together garlic, anchovies, and 1/2 cup olive oil. Toss breadcrumbs with a few tablespoons of the garlic-anchovy oil to coat. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and few grinds of black pepper, and add half of the cheese. Toss again to mix.
  4. Spread the breadcrumbs in a skillet or on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until dark golden.
  5. Add several teaspoons lemon juice to the remaining garlic-anchovy oil. Taste for seasoning and acidity, and add salt and pepper or more lemon juice to taste.
  6. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan with remaining two tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the beans, spread them out into a single layer, and allow to cook without moving for several minutes. They should sizzle. You want the beans to brown slightly but not char.
  7. After 3 or 4 minutes, use a spatula to flip the beans and stir them around a little, about one more minute. You just want to brown the beans and heat them through. Do not over cook, or your beans will turn to mush.
  8. Add the greens and stir to mix evenly with the greens. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to rest for a few minutes as the greens wilt a bit more. Add the garlic-anchovy-lemon dressing and toss. Top with breadcrumbs and remaining cheese.
  9. Serve immediately.

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§ 32 responses to Skillet greens & beans with anchovy breadcrumbs

  • Courtney

    Yay! You had a honeymoon! And you have a wonderful little forest of your own! Happy, happy time. (the beans and greens sound terrific.)

  • Margit Van Schaick

    May your marriage remain as fresh and vibrant as your greens and beans recipe! Wishing you and Ben all the best! And, looking forward, hopefully, to more ideas about eating from your garden.

  • Hi, Sarah. I really love your blog and have made a few of your recipes. Can’t wait to try this one, I love all the ingredients and am an anchovy fan, sad that Wegmans here in Rochester no longer offers anchovies as a pizza topping. As a former medical librarian, I envy your career in international public health, what fascinating work. I wonder if you write about your experiences. Anyway, you have a wonderful blog.

    • Hi Valorie! That is so kind of you. I can’t believe that there’s something Wegman’s doesn’t offer :) As for writing about global health…sometimes it’s hard to write candidly about the things that pay the bills. Feel free to shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss more. Best—Sarah

      • Thanks, Sarah. Yes, I know what you mean about writing in that way. I’ve done a small bit of volunteer work in NIca re: patient health information and now that I’ve left my med lib job hope to figure out what more I can do. If I had my career to do over again, I’d certainly look at in’tl public health.

  • Greens! Beans! Anchovies? Hah. Yep, you’ve got my number here. I am a fearful anchovy eater. I do tend to like foods with them inside, but don’t like to do the putting inside myself. One of the last bastions of my childhood pickiness (that, and: pickles, fermented foods, and other pungent tastes). You know who is an anchovy superfan? Melissa Clark. She is ALL ABOUT THE ANCHOVY. Her passion knows no bounds. Well, perhaps I’ll try this out, dip my toe in so to speak. Happy post-honeymoon to you! Happy late-spring! Happy happy!

  • Mary

    Very best wishes for a long and happy married life. Your new property looks lovely.

    This sounds like such a tasty recipe and so easy. I have 2 questions:
    1) How many people do you feel it serves?
    2) Did you add the toasted breadcrumbs onto the top at the end or mix them in?

    Thank you for the answers and the recipe. I think I will try it tomorrow with dandelion greens.

  • Patricia

    Yesterday afternoon I was reading your blog when my neighbor stopped by after work. We were both on our own for the evening, and trying to figure out what to have for dinner. After a quick check of our collective pantries and fridge we were able to come up with a few interesting substitutions and 1-1/2 bottles of white wine.. Between us we had a head of garlic, 1 can of cannellini beans, 1 of pintoes, some cooked undressed elbow macaroni, a can of small sardines packed in olive oil, a loaf of Italian bread, a dry 3 Italian cheese mix, a lemon,and a nice mixture of dinosaur kale, baby spinach and arugula. Being smart women, the first thing we did was open the wine and have some. Then we followed your preparation instructions using our substitutions. We used the oil from the sardines with the garlic. Ground some of the Italian bread into crumbs and mixed with the garlic oil mix. and toasted We drained, rinsed and mixed the beans with about 1 cup or so of the cooked macaroni, the chopped sardines and tossed in a few pepper flakes. We mixed and chopped the greens and tossed with the bean, macaroni, and sardine mixture. My friend said we’ll probably smell like sardines for a week, but good friends, good wine, who cares. We were full and happy. Thanks for the dinner idea, and best wishes on the wedding.

  • It’s what’s for dinner tonight….looks wonderful. x

  • That backyard! What a dream.

  • I only just discovered your blog recently, but I’ve been enjoying it so much! All best wishes as you embark on this new phase of your life.

    My fella and I made this recipe for dinner the other night and it was spectacular! We used regular curly kale and our adaptation was to use panko instead of breadcrumbs (we toasted stove-top as I have a bad habit of forgetting about things once they’re in the oven), and the inclusion of a small jar of Italian tuna in oil, cut up into bite-sized chunks and stirred in at the very end. MAN it was good! We opened a bottle of vinho verde and had a veritable feast!! (Side note: I ate some leftovers with a soft-boiled egg this morning – delish!!)

  • I just discovered your site and am so, so glad I did. It’s just lovely, and I really enjoy your writing. I look forward to popping back often to read your new posts. Feel free to stop by my site sometime if you like :)

  • Karolyn

    Made it tonight – this recipe was delicious! Thanks so much for sharing these amazing recipes with the world. Congratulations on your marriage!!

  • Amy

    Delicious and just in time as my CSA started last week and it’s All Greens, All The Time right now.

  • Mahee Ferlini

    Hi, I enjoyed reading your blog and I think this is a great way to introduce anchovies. Thank you so much for your recipe!

  • this is something new i liked it. moreover it doesn’t take too much time.

  • Dave

    This was entirely lovely. I used mustard greens, although I don’t think that additional flavor came through too much.

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