Rustic White Beans
This week is the coldest of the season and you will definitely not find me leaving the house unless absolutely necessary. You could say I’m not really a winter girl. I may have been born into the Midwest but I have no interest in snowboarding, ice skating, or general cold-weather merriment. You can catch me indoors, packing on winter weight in the form of chocolate chunk blondies and stick-to-your-ribs beans.
I’m always on the lookout for new bean recipes. As a vegetarian they are a staple in my kitchen. It has been fun learning the ideal use for all the different kinds of beans from roasting to filling quesadillas. If you have any adventurous bean recipes I’d love for you to send them my way!
This is a hearty dish that goes well with a side of couscous and a pile of vegetables. Canned beans cannot be substituted because you will be infusing the dried beans with a lot of different flavors along the way. Don’t let dried beans intimidate you. Follow the instructions on the package for either soaking them overnight or doing a quick soak method of boiling and allowing to rest. Just make sure you pick over your beans to remove any stones or funky looking beans. You may also want to keep an eye on the beans for a while as they simmer. I have a tendency to let my beans boil over creating quite a mess and making it necessary to add more water as the beans simmer.
The final bread crumb topping and bake is entirely optional. You could just serve the beans straight from the boiling pot, but I really recommend the topping. It creates a nice texture contrast and takes the beans from simple peasant food to something spectacular.
2 cups dried white beans, soaked
1 small onion, peeled and sliced in half
1 stalk celery, cut into two pieces
1 small carrot, sliced in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Drain and rinse the beans. Transfer them to a large stockpot and cover with 4 cups of cold water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 3 minutes, being careful not to let the pot boil over. Skim off any white foam from the top. Add the onion, celery, carrot, thyme, and tarragon. Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium.
Simmer for about 45 minutes or until the beans are very tender. Remove the onion, carrot, and celery. Turn the heat to low and continue to simmer while you prepare the other vegetables. The beans should have enough water to simmer but not be soupy. If there is too much liquid leave the pot uncovered and stir occasionally. If there is not enough liquid add 1/2 to 1 cup water and leave covered.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat a 2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine panko, walnuts, butter, oregano, and paprika until thoroughly coated in butter. Set aside.
Place the garlic and olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat. Allow the garlic to sizzle for 30 seconds, then add the leeks and saute until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape the leeks into the beans. Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the bean mixture to the prepared baking dish.
Top the beans with the prepared bread crumb topping and bake 20-25 minutes until the bread crumbs are golden.
Adapted from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook