Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


A Bean With Self-Esteem

The beans of my childhood were red pintos, never with rice, but smothering a plain piece of white bread, a platter of steak or pork chops and a bowl of veggies in the background. I say background.  For me it was all about the beans.

I made a pot of beans the other day, cannelinis from Full Circle Farm harvested last fall, and I wondered again about food fashion. Black beans,  cannelinis, cranberry and fava are in, lima, pinto and navy are out.  Or maybe I have it backwards. (Lima beans, have they ever been ‘in’?) As I cleaned and soaked the cannelinis and referred to Jerry Traunfeld’s recipe in The Herbfarm Cookbook, I thought that my beans had come a long way from that farmhouse table.

Cannelinis with onion and garlic confit, a hoity-toity term when you’re talking beans.  Never mind.  It sounded perfect to me. Caramelized or stewed onions elevate almost anything to a higher culinary plane. I always think Traunfeld’s recipes will be snooty and complicated, but they are decidedly not. These beans are creamy delicious, imbued with the delicate onion/garlic confit and then piled on top of a piece of warm cornbread (thank Jerry for that too) with garlicky kale on the side.

I’m daydreaming about transforming the leftovers into a savory spread that I’ll freeze and we’ll daub on toasted garlic crostinis before a dinner party.  A bean canapé? My pinky finger’s excited already. I know.  This bean might be getting a little too big for its britches, but she can’t help it.  She’s just that good.


Cannelini Beans with Onion & Garlic Confit from The Herbfarm Cookbok:

Confit?  Traditionally it’s been a way to preserve meat (in fat) or fruit (in sugar).  In this case it’s a combination of onion and garlic simmered together to become soft and succulent before they’re mixed in with the beans.

Directions: Clean and soak 1 ½ C Canellini beans. Pre-soak beans in 4 quarts of water for 8 hours; or bring beans to a boil in 4 quarts of water, turn off heat and let sit uncovered for 1 hour.  Drain, rinse and they’re ready to cook.

Place beans in a saucepan with 2 quarts of water and a bouquet garni of 2 bay leaves and several sprigs of fresh thyme/ Gently simmer until beans are just tender/ This will take 35 – 55 minutes/ Check beans periodically/ Unusual that there’s no salt added – it comes later.


Directions for confit: While beans are cooking finely chop 1 or 2 medium onions and 6 cloves of garlic/ Saute quietly in 3 T olive oil for about 8 minutes, stirring often – don’t let them brown/ Add 2 C chicken or vegetable stock and simmer together with 1 T finely chopped rosemary and 1 – 1 ½ T winter or summer savory (I had to use dried) until stock is reduced to just below the onion mixture/ Still no salt/ Mixture will be a little like ‘marmalade’ in terms of thickness/ The reduction will take anywhere from 30 -40 minutes, about the same time required to cook the beans/ When both are done mix together with salt (start w/1 teaspoon) and pepper to taste/ Cook together for another 10 minutes/ Good stuff.

Jerry’s Marjoram Cornbread:
Grease an 8 – inch square pan with 2 t softened butter.
This recipe can easily be mixed by hand.

Directions: Sift together and set aside 1 C all-purpose white flour, 1 ½ t baking powder, ¼ t baking soda, 1 t salt/ Stir ¾ C stone ground cornmeal and 1 T sugar into other dry ingredients/ In a separate bowl whisk together 2 large eggs and 1 C buttermilk/ Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir together/ Stir in 2 T chopped fresh marjoram (or a smaller amount of dried), ¼ C finely chopped green onion and 4 T melted butter/ Pour into greased pan, bake @ 400º for 25 minutes, or until cornbread is lightly browned and pulls slightly away from sides of the pan. Smother with beans and have at it.

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3 Responses »

  1. Funny to think about the “trends” in beans. I love the black, but the cannalini are always a fav too – they seems to cook faster somehow and lend a creamier taste to the dish.
    I did a spread like you mentioned a couple of weeks ago and I finished the entire batch in just 2 days – addictive I tell you – especially with crusty bread that is a few days old (the better to hold the spread)… and lets face it, at least on this end, the bread is just a vehicle to get the dip to the mouth 🙂

  2. Jerry’s cornbread and polenta are two of my favorite things. I’ve also done them with thyme (easier to get in the garden this time of year) with good results.

  3. Being of good Tuscan descent, beans are the center of my families cooking. The Toscani are called “mangiafagoli” bean eaters and for good reason. Beans are a crop that grow well and in a cuisine where meat is a condimento, and not a huge part of the regular table, the nutritional value of fagioli has long been known. I love the pairing of this dish with the kale and cornbread. As the snow is swirling here in Ellensburg, this meal is the perfect one to enjoy right now. Once again, Sally, your photos and words have me salivating! I am also reminded that as a child visiting my Uncle Mario there was always a pot of beans on the stove. whether in anticipation of guests for dinner or just the regular preparation for that night, the smell of his home grown fava and cannelini cooking in “odore” (a less hoity-toity word than confit) signaled comfort and a reminder of my roots as a Mangiafagioli.

    Brava, cara Sally!!