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Pair whites with frugal, flavorful beans 'n' greens

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Every Mediterranean cuisine features a variation on greens and beans — and for good reasons. By simply combining inexpensive, fresh ingredients with a crusty bread and tasty wine, frugal cooks can feed and satisfy an entire extended family, not to mention the neighbors.

The dish delivers high nutritional values, too. Beans offer protein and fiber, while the dark leafy greens provide numerous vitamins and iron. Wine in regular moderation, meanwhile, offers proven antioxidants beneficial to the heart and to maintaining proper cholesterol levels.

But putting expense and nutrition aside, greens and beans paired with wine just really taste good as a meal.

Poor Italian immigrants to America fully embraced the greens and beans in their adopted country. Escarole served as the preferred leafy green as the dish became known colloquially as “shka-rol 'n beans.” It typically favored a thick rendition poured over crusty bread and paired with homemade vino.

For a contemporary version, boil escarole or other dark greens, such as kale, for about 30 minutes until tender and drain. Sautee minced garlic in 14 cup olive oil. Add the greens, a can of chicken stock and Italian herbs. Season with salt and black pepper and crushed red pepper to taste. Stir in a can of white Cannellini beans. Warm until the greens and beans thicken, and then serve over slices of crusty Italian bread.

If you have homemade wine on hand, by all means give it a shot. But the dish also pairs beautifully with the delicious 2012 Argiolas “Costamolino” Vermentino di Sardegna, Italy (Luxury 43239; $13.99) made from Vermentino and other grapes native to the island of Sardinia. The vines grow in silt and loam soils under hot, sunny skies, but cooling Mediterranean breezes help the grapes maintain freshness.

In this case, early harvesting also avoids over-ripening. Stainless-steel fermentation at cool temperatures captured the fresh, fruitiness.

The wine's golden color unfolds ripe apricot, peach and light herbal aromas. Creamy, ripe citrus and melon flavors meld with herbal nuances balanced with terrific acidity. The wine finishes fruity, yet dry. Highly recommended.

Spanish greens and beans generally follow a similar recipe for the greens. For Spanish accents, add some mildly spicy chorizo sausage, chopped Spanish onion and raisins during sauteing. Substitute garbanzo or red kidney beans. Serve over bread soaked in milk for softening.

Pair the dish with a lovely white wine made from Albariño grapes grown in Spain's northwestern “green” coast of Galicia. The granite subsoils and cool, misty climate create perfect conditions for the vines that traditinally grow on pergola trellises.

The regularly listed Bodegas Martín Códax Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain (Luxury 5170; $15.99) offers a consistently well-made example. For a more exotic version, try the delicious 2102Robaliño Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain (Luxury 43109; $14.99).

Made from grapes grown in Condado do Tea, Rías Baixas' warmest subregion, the wine's golden color offers honeysuckle, ripe-apple and peach aromas. Peach, apricot and citrus flavors balance in a round, creamy texture with plenty of fresh acidity. The dry, fruity finish lingers pleasingly. Highly recommended.

Greek greens and beans known as Fasolia Vrasta me Horta typically features boiled kale with the addition of lemon juice, chopped tomatoes and chopped onions. The final topping of crumbled, mildly salty feta cheese adds the quintessential Greek touch.

Pair it with the 2012 Boutari Moschofilero, Mantinia, Greece (Luxury 46820; $13.99). Native to Greece's Peloponnesian Peninsula, the pink- and light purple-skinned Moschofilero (pronounced moh-skoh-FEE-leh-roh) grape creates highly perfumed fruit with spicy hints. When grown at relatively cooler higher altitudes with relatively low yields and early harvesting, the grapes retain the freshness essential to a well-balanced final wine.

Over the last 30-plus years, Boutari has led efforts to produce high-quality versions of this native variety. With help from a prominent American importer, the wine has become one of Greece's best-selling exports.

White floral and citrus aromas flirt with light spicy hints. Crisp citrus, honeydew and tropical fruit flavors balance with firm acidity. The fruity, yet completely dry, finish carries a modest 11.5-percent alcohol by volume. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at ddesimone@tribweb.com.

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