Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Whenever I go to a food fair, I always seem to come back with lots of beans. It's a no brainer. Beans are good to eat. Beans are cute. And beans last for ages. (And then there's the whole good for you, low fat, blah blah blah thing). I go especially crazy at the Salone del Gusto, where the beans are flying in from all over the world.
This year was no different. Kilos and kilos of beans filled my suitcase on my way home from Torino. Due to a lot of traveling over the past month, I'm only just now starting to cook my way through them.
This weekend I played around with my sack of Fagiolo di Sorana. These little white beans come from Tuscany, and were one of the first from that area to be recognized by Slow Food’s Presedi. In other words, they are a heritage variety, in danger of dying out.
But what really drew me to the Fagiolo di Sorano stand at the Salone was the cool way they were cooking them, in a glass flask over low heat. (The restaurant Nino’s in Rome has a similar flask bubbling away in their front window, and it’s something I’ve always been tempted to try). Happily, the stand was also giving out little cups full of the velvety beans. The long, slow cooking resulted in the beans retaining their shape, but somehow, at the same time, becoming as tender as butter.
But when I finally got around to cooking the beans, last Saturday, I realized I wasn’t going to rig up the whole glass flask thing. I mean, really, where do you even get one of those flasks? And would it even work over a gas flame? Instead I just decided to give the beans an extra long soak (the vendor had told me the beans were pretty dry this year, due to this past summer’s drought) then cook them slowly in a big pot.
Since I cooked up the entire bag of beans - a pound - I pretty much have beans for the week.
Sunday I dipped into my pot and took a couple of cups and turned them into bowls of warming, garlicky bean soup. Once the beans are cooked it couldn’t be easier. Beans, bean water, tons of garlic and hefty dose of olive oil and a handful of parsley.
Yes, you can make this with canned beans. But - as always, can't stress this enough - high quality dried ones are so much better (and cheaper!). Don’t have time you say? Just go in the other room, right now, and put some beans to soak. There, you’ve done it.
I’ve come to realize that the hard part of cooking with dried beans is the planning ahead part. But here’s the thing. You don’t have to plan ahead. I didn’t. I ended up making Garlicky Bean Soup. But who knows what I’ll end up doing with the rest of the beans? Let me know what you make.
Garlicky Bean Soup
Serves 2 - 3
2 cups cooked white beans
1 1/2 cups reserved bean cooking water*
1/4 cup olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Heat olive oil over gentle heat. Add chopped garlic. Let cook for a few minutes, but do not let it brown. Add the beans, and give a good stir. Add the water, and bring to a simmer. Let cook for about ten minutes, covered.
Take off the heat. Using an immersible blender, blend the soup just a bit. I like to have some whole beans floating around, but also like to give the watery broth a thickness.
Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle into bowls, sprinkle with parsley and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top. If you want to make the dish even more filling, put a piece of toasted rustic bread at the bottom of the bowl. And if you want to add more garlic, rub the toast with a clove of garlic.
*If you are using canned beans, don’t use the water from the can. Instead, use water or else a light broth.