Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mark Bittman's Beans, Shrimp & Fennel

As a special monthly feature at I Heart Cooking Clubs we are cooking through the recipes of our past twelve IHCC chefs. Our second chef is a big favorite of mine, Mark Bittman. I cook with Bittman often--before, during and after the time we featured him at IHCC; loving his often healthy, quick, and very adaptable recipe style. I have most all of his cookbooks except for the newest Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix--which I am sure I will eventually get even though I have drastically cut down on my cookbook buying. Probably the Bittman book I cook the most from is his Kitchen Express with it's seasonally-arranged recipe sketches that make it easy to cook from the pantry and adapt to what you have on hand. 

There is a recipe in Bittman's The VB6 Cookbook that I have been meaning to make and had not gotten around to yet--Beans, Shrimp and Fennel. Three of my favorite ingredients in one simple dish.  The VB6 cookbook came out in May of 2014 as a companion to his health book: VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health... for Good

Bittman says, "If you've never tried this combination, do. Like now. Beans with seafood is not only just as classic but also just as tasty as beans with pork. (And it's faster.) You control the texture here: the main recipe results in creamy beans in a thick broth; but see the variations for a drier stir-fry and a tomato, shrimp, and bean stew."  

I made a couple of very slight changes to the recipe--reducing the oil and the salt as I used a low-sodium mock chicken stock that still has plenty of salt. Changes are noted in red below.

Beans, Shrimp & Fennel
The VB6 Cookbook by Mark Bittman
(Serves 4)

4 cups cooked or canned white beans
3 Tbsp olive oil (I used about 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 onion, halved and sliced
1 tsp salt (or to taste) (You may need less if you use stock or bean water is salted)
1/2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
1 lb fennel, bulb trimmed and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 bay leaves
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (low-sodium) or water, plus more as needed
1 lb peeled shrimp
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano or marjoram 

Drain beans. If you made them yourself, reserve the cooking liquid to use with stock; if canned, discard liquid and rinse beans well.  

Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, sprinkling with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens and turns golden--about 5 minutes. Add the fennel, garlic, and bay leaves, continue cooking and stirring until fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes more.

Add the beans, along with 2 cups of liquid, either the bean-cooking liquid, stock, water or a combination. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat so it bubbles steadily and cook, stirring occasionally until the beans and vegetables become quite tender, 10 to 15 minutes. If you'd like, mash some of the beans with a spoon to help thicken the sauce; add more liquid if the mixture ever looks too dry.

When the beans and veggies are the texture you like, add the shrimp and cover the pot. Cook, stirring once or twice, just until the shrimp turn opaque, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and fresh herbs (use some of the fennel fronds chopped too if desired). Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed, and serve.     

Notes/Results: There is so much to love about this besides how very good it is--it's a one pan meal, can be on the table in about 30 minutes, and it balances a homey stew or cassoulet feel while still being elegant enough for company. As with most Bittman recipes, he provides a couple of variations to the base dish--a drier, stir-fry-ish version as well as a bouillabaisse version with tomato and leek. But to me, this one with its brothy goodness is pretty wonderful. The shrimp are pink and plump, the broth flavorful from the fennel, lemon and oregano (perfect to serve with bread for sopping), and the beans make it satisfying. I will happily make this again.    

Three other favorite Mark Bittman recipes that I highly recommend:

Spanish-Style Pasta e Fagioli from How to Cook Everything Fast

 Tomato-Freekeh Soup from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Apple Cider & White Wine Slushies from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express. (Note: I've made these with Riesling as the recipe suggests and Calvados (apple brandy) and both were delicious.)
You can see what Mark Bittman dishes everyone made by checking out the picture links on the IHCC post



  1. Deb, I think I should try out fennel soon. But I'm not sure if I will like its taste. But I gotta try. :D

  2. I got so caught up with my brussels and pork that I forgot to recap some of my fave Bittman dishes! Boo. Those apple cider and white wine slushies were amazing:)

    You know I'm a lover of this bean and shrimp dish. Two of my favorite things for sure. Have never tried beans with shrimp, but now I feel compelled to. Looks delicious:)

  3. Nice! I do quite like Bittman's writing and recipes (I do have his new Kitchen Matrix book now too) but I've never come across this particular cookbook. I've just added it to my "wish list" and plan to try this dish quite soon!

  4. This is something I'm sure we'll like. All of the flavors sound wonderful. Now I'm wondering how I missed this in the VB6 Cookbook. I've cooked many a recipe from that one :)

  5. This looks delicious! With slices of bread to sop up the flavourful broth, yummy! I have cut down on my cookbooks buying too! :(

  6. Any recipe that makes delicious food and gets it done in one pot should get extra points in a home kitchen. I like Bittman's no-nonsense and flexible approach to constructing recipes. Like your recap!


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