Pank and I were invited to the beautiful, East Nashville home of Zeneba Bowers and Matt Walker for dinner Memorial Day Weekend. Talking about visionaries! Matt and Zeneba are orchestra members of the Nashville Symphony. They are also founders of the Grammy Nominated, Alias Chamber Ensemble. Please click on the highlighted links to find out how they are using music to not only inspire people, but also to give back to the community. Trust me, this sweetheart of a couple ain’t messing around!
In their spare time they love to travel… a lot! With all the pond jumpin’, it is beyond me how they keep their gardens so pretty! There we sat in their fragrant backyard sipping on champagne from beloved Woodland Wine Merchant, while Zeneba prepared a feast that included Fagioli Corona salad. With all of their European adventures, they usually bring back these enormous, creamy Italian beans that are the star of this delicious salad. We also had “build your own” pizzas that included lamb sausage from one of my favorites, Porter Road Butcher! As Matt was finishing our grilled pizzas, I asked Zeneba to share her recipe. As we discussed the origin of the Fagioli Corona, she suddenly exclaimed, “Here I am talking about all of these European finds with someone who is all about local!” We both giggled as we gobbled up her marinated masterpiece! I share with her my love of Italian cuisine. Pank and I honeymooned in Tuscany and were amazed at their Slow Food culture. In fact, Slow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. You guessed it! Italy is the mother country of all this local food talk!
Eating local is such an important value, that I wished more Americans shared. However, I can only have so much sweet potatoes and kale come January! In Barbara Kingsolver’s, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, she shares some of those same sentiments. The point she makes is that while a cucumber in January might be a refreshing change, keep in mind the miles it traveled to get here, the effects on the local economy and its overall sustainability. I am so thankful for Italian beans, French Bordeaux and olive oils from every corner of the world! They are all staples in my kitchen. If only Tennessee could produce olives! At the end of the day, the key is that we at least “give a hill a beans” about where our food comes from! Come to think about it, I will have to remember to ask Zeneba to pick me up some Fagioli Corona next time she is in the mother land of Slow Food!
Zeneba’s Fagioli Corona Salad
One 16 oz. bag dried beans. I use Fagioli Corona, which I’ve never been able to find stateside. You can substitute the largest white bean variety you can find. Boil the beans in water with a few bay leaves. No need to presoak. It takes a few hours to cook them until they are quite soft. Drain and cool. Add chopped onion and chopped red pepper. Dress with a few shakes of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and a good amount of very good olive oil.
Another variation on this is:
Beans, on a flat plate. Slice red onion into thin strips and top the beans. Add albacore tuna in chunks in the center, squeeze just a tiny amount of lemon. Drizzle with good olive oil and fresh oregano.
A note about this: You should only dress the beans when you are ready to eat them. Otherwise the veg gets soggy in the vinaigrette. You can keep cooked beans in the fridge for a few days and eat this salad a few times a week.