Salt of the Earth

2014-04-05 18.23.05There are few things more satisfying than a bowl of long-simmered beans, drizzled with a little olive oil and grated parmigiano-reggiano, and served with a few slices of crusty bread for dipping.  On a cold night this will take away a deep chill; and for a drained and despondent soul, this will soothe and nourish.

For best results, a little planning ahead is necessary, but actual work time is minimal.  Start this recipe on a Friday evening, and you’ll be able to put your feet up for the weekend, knowing you have a most delicious meal awaiting you for Saturday evening, when a dinner at home can be relished.  This is the time to pull out a good olive oil, if you have one, because its flavor is a key part of the end result.

Rosemary White Beans

The night before you want to eat the beans, put a pound of cannellini beans in a bowl and top with cold water, to cover by at least one inch.  Put in the fridge to soak overnight.

The next afternoon, pour the beans in a heavy pot, along with their soaking water, and more fresh water (or better still, good chicken stock, if you have it), to just cover the beans.  Add a sprig of fresh rosemary, a few stems of fresh sage, and several peeled cloves of garlic.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a low simmer.  Cover the beans with a lid, leaving it slightly askew, and let cook for two hours.  Check the beans now and then to be sure there is enough liquid in the pot; they should always be just covered with cooking liquid.  After two hours, they should be close to finished.  Salt them generously and continue to simmer until they are soft and creamy.  Taste them for salt, and add a bit more if needed.  Turn off the heat and let them sit in their cooking liquid until you are ready to eat.

From here, you have a number of choices:

* You can add a few chopped tomatoes to the pot, or a bit of tomato sauce.  Bring to a simmer once again so the flavors can meld.

* You could also add a rind from parmigiano-reggiano to the pot, when you first test for doneness.  This will make the beans absolutely transcendent.

* You can eat them as is!  Serve up some in a bowl, drizzle with good olive oil and a little grated parm, and EAT.  A piece of crusty bread, well toasted and itself drizzled with that same olive oil, will be absolute heaven with these, either alongside the beans or placed in the bottom of the bowl, with the beans scooped on top.

* Cook up a couple of your favorite sausages.  When they are done, transfer them to a platter, and add a clove of minced garlic and a few chili flakes to that same pan.  Cook for a few seconds, and then add a bunch of chopped kale, chard, or spinach to the pan.  Saute just until wilted, season liberally with salt, and then serve the sausages and the greens in a bowl, surrounded by those creamy beans.

* Transfer the beans, with just a little of their liquid, to a low casserole dish that’s been rubbed with a little oil.  Cover the beans with fresh bread crumbs, some minced fresh herbs, and some good aged cheese, grated.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake in a 400 degree oven until bubbly.  Eat with any roasted meat of your choice.

* In the warmer months, let the beans cool and then drain the excess liquid from the beans.  Combine them with minced red onion, fennel, and celery.  Add fresh herbs of your choice (parsley, basil, chives, marjoram), a little lemon zest (optional), a clove or two of minced garlic, and season with salt.  Some cherry tomatoes are nice too.   Dress with your favorite vinaigrette and eat either chilled or room temperature.  Toss carefully, as the beans are a bit delicate.





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