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.