There are a couple different components to this dish. The first is the white beans. The recipe called for cannellini beans, but I used a similar sized white bean that I already had in the house. One and a half cups of dried beans are slowly simmered with toasted fennel seed, onion, rosemary, chile de arbol, thyme and olive oil. The beans cook for about an hour and a half, or until tender. I made the beans in advance and refrigerated them in their cooking liquid for later use. In a pinch, you could probably get away with using canned beans.
Next up is the cavalo nero. This is also known as tuscan kale, lacinato kale, or dinosaur kale. The flavor is similar to your standard curly kale, but the texture is much more pleasant.
You want to strip the leafy greens off the tougher stems, and then tear the cavalo nero into bite sized pieces.
Once the cavalo nero has been processed, it's time to work on putting everything together. The aromatics consist of fennel, red onion, rosemary, thyme, chile de arbol and sliced garlic.
You need a large pot for this recipe. Some olive oil is heated in the pot, and the aromatics are added to saute for a few minutes. The cavalo nero is added to the pot and cooked until wilted. The beans with about a cup of their cooking liquid are added next. Finally, the clams, mussels and a cup of dry vermouth go into the pot. I had a little over 3 pounds of mussels and clams. I nestled the clams and mussels into the bean mixture, brought the liquid to a boil, and covered the pot. The mussels and clams just need to steam for about 7 minutes - check periodically to see if they've opened up. When they're open, they're ready. Clams generally take longer than mussels to cook.
Before serving, season to taste with salt and pepper and swirl about a tablespoon of butter into the pot. I made a loaf of walnut bread to serve alongside the shellfish.
This was a fairly time consuming dish from start to finish, but definitely worth the extra effort.