White beans happened to be on my mind. Amanda's white bean, barley and kale soup was a great starting point, but I didn't have barley nor kale on hand (yes, the kale is marinating in a vinegar bath as we speak). What I had on hand was sun-dried tomatoes. My thought was to make a bean dish that would feature the tomatoes as a bright surprising accent to counterpoint the savory-creamy-earthy flavor of the beans. The bean dish could be served with rice as a warm comfort meal on a cold day.
Small dried white beans cook in about an hour without soaking. I put them in a pot covered in 3 inches of cold water, bring them up to a boil, cover and simmer at a low temp for at least an hour till they are tender and creamy.
Oh, the challenges of photographing food while it is cooking. See how my camera lens has fogged up with the cooking steam. I let the beans cook and allow most of the water to absorb.
For flavoring I round up the usual suspects; garlic onions celery carrots.
Do you see what looks like a rock at the right edge of the cutting board? It IS a rock (or should I say a stone?) I call it my kitchen rock. It was picked up on the beach at Ditch Plains, Montauk and I use it to smash garlic cloves. I crush seeds and nuts with it too. Not just any rock would do. I picked up and threw back many a rock in choosing the one with the smooth surface that fit my hand perfectly. It is a great tool, very early cavewoman.
These vegetables I consider my base flavor. They get lightly sauteed in olive oil and salt and pepper till they just begin to soften but still have a crunch. I want them to retain their shape in the final dish.
Next I think about my accent flavors. In this case it is chopped parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, a bay leaf and two dried chilies. These will give the dish it's distinctive identity. I add them to the pan with the other vegetables and cook for a few minutes to let all the flavors mingle and develop.
Once everything is at their peak doneness I turn off the heat and wait for the beans to finish cooking. You will notice that I am cooking the beans separately from the flavorings at this point. That is because I want all the ingredients to retain their identities and not turn to total mush during the slow process of cooking the beans. Once the beans are cooked I drain them from whatever cooking liquid is left and combine them with the sauteed ingredients.
I will cook everything together briefly and adjust the seasoning and even add some lemon zest, grated cheese and a swirl of high quality olive oil to finish the dish. The flavors get even better if you refrigerate it overnight. This is a yummy, hearty dish that warms the soul but still has a light flavor with the promise of springtime in the crunchy vegetables and sunny warmth of the tomatoes.
An alternative to this is to make it into a soup. Add some vegetable or chicken stock to the finished dish above (and in this case I added some spinach for color) and cook for another 15 minutes for the flavors to further develop.
Both dishes taste great. The sun-dried tomato adds the tart brightness I am looking for. The carrots and celery still have a little crunch which adds texture and interest. Pluck out the bay leaf and the chilies before serving if you like. My daughter's boyfriend declared the soup a winner and polished it off before I could put away any leftovers. He suggested I make a bigger batch next time. Got it.
White Beans with Sun-dried Tomatoes
1/2 lb. dried white beans
2 quarts of water
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 dried chiles
salt and pepper to taste
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup of cooked chopped spinach
Finish bean dish or soup with:
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. lemon zest
3 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
Sort through dried beans, rinse and put in large pot with 2 quarts of water or enough to cover them by three inches. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for at least on hour till beans are soft and creamy.
In a saute pan heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, onions, carrot and celery and cook for about five minutes until they begin to soften a bit. Add the parsley, tomatoes bay leaf and chilies and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
Drain the cooked beans and add the vegetables in a small pot. Heat through for about 8 minutes.
For the soup: Add 6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock and 1 cup of cooked chopped spinach. Cook for 15 mintues.
Finish dish with lemon zest, grated cheese and or olive oil if you like.
Deb - I'm anxious to find out how your kale dish turns out! Let me know! This white bean stew sounds so "comforting". I spend a lot of time in the kitchen during the winter, and probably 80% of my concoctions are stews and soups. Just so wonderful and perfect in so many ways. For lunch, dinner and really anytime of the day, they are the quintessential wintertime meal!
For a wine, I'm first thinking of the beans and their "earthy and creamy" characteristics you talk about. This makes me think immediately of a red burgundy, famous for the very same qualities. The problem is, however, the high price tag associated with red Burgundy. In Burgundy, the wines are "classified" according to their geographical location. Instead of the producer's name being prominent on the label, the location is more focused upon. The producer's name usually shows up somewhere on the label, but it is typically not what you see first when you look at the label. The designations from best quality down are Grand Crus, Premier Crus, village appellations and regional appellations. Grand Cru Burgundy are extremely expensive (typically $100+), and are site-specific, produced from only the best vineyard sites. The name of the vineyard is listed as the name of the appellation on the label, i.e Corton. Premier Cru wines are the next level down, and are also site specific though the sites are not of the same quality as Grand Cru. On the label, you will see the name of the village of origin, then the Premier Cru status (1er Cru), and finally the vineyard name. Next come Village wines, which are made from a blend of wines from "lesser" vineyard sites. Specific qualities and characteristics are attributed to wines from the individual villages. Regional wines are made from wines coming from an area much larger than an individual village. The system can be somewhat confusing when first starting out in an attempt to understand how the wines are classified. But - I am slowly getting to my point here. Under the group of regional wines, there is a subgroup called AOC Bourgogne. These are "generic" wines, and can be made anywhere throughout the region. The wines are simpler, yet still representative of the village. And, the wines are not made for long term cellaring/drinking, but rather should be enjoyed in the near term.
Sooooo, my point is this - although Burgundy prices are extremely high, it is possible to find some of the AOC Bourgogne wines which are priced much more affordably, yet are delicious and true to the terroir of their villages. This is what I'd recommend for a "comfort" food. I just wanted to give a little explanation and "lesson" about what differentiates one Burgundy from another.
Domaine Fichet Bourgogne Tradition 2007 is a great choice for this dish. Oh - I forgot to mention for those of you who are not familiar with Burgundy - they are always 100% Pinot Noir (except for Beaujolais which is made from the Gamay grape). The Tradition has the typical fruit of Pinot from Burgundy, and that wonderful earthiness which will pair so perfectly with Deb's dish. It is soft and easy drinking, and can be found for $14.99.