Small, Good Things: Beans and Greens

By Joe Dizney
My friend Jane reminded me of this curiosity when she called asking for the recipe of “that funny dish you brought to Christmas a couple of years ago: Mud and Grass.”
Not a very appetizing name, but a simple side dish I got seriously addicted to while living in Chicago a couple of years ago. Brooklyn-raised chef John Caputo (of a Mano, a consistently great bistro on Dearborn just north of the Loop, sadly no longer there) created the version I first tasted in honor of his Pugliesi grandparents: a bed of escarole sautéed in garlicky olive oil and topped by a truffled fava bean purée (an Apulian specialty). “Mud and Grass” on the menu, but distilled to its essence, just beans and greens. Chef’s winter variation substituted a chickpea purée for the favas and chicory for the escarole. The effect was comfortingly and deliciously the same, and I don’t remember ever not ordering it in all the many times I ate there.