The smell of rosemary coming from the oven is always comforting, no matter what memory it awakens: roast chicken, maybe, or roast potatoes. It promises solid nourishment. Add to it some sage and you enter serious territory. When out of the oven comes a pie plate hiding something under a golden green-speckled crust, you may still not think right away at beans. Yet, that's what's underneath.
The December 2012 issue of Food & Wine (one of the two magazines to which I subscribe, the other being EatingWell) had a set of recipes for a crowd contributed by John and Tamar Adler. Among them, I singled out Cannellini Bean Gratin with Herbed Bread Crumb Topping.
I would not let the fact that I did not need to cook for a crowd stop me from trying the recipe. On the other hand, I did not want to cook a dish with 3 pounds of beans. So, I went about cutting down the recipe to a manageable size, making a few adjustments along the way.
The result was excellent: Rosemary, sage and garlic bring the beans to an intensely aromatic level and the bread crumbs provide needed texture contrast. I have already made this dish several times and I foresee doing it again: it has immediately become a household favorite. I have a good stash of beans and of my garlic in my storage space and my little garden keeps providing me with the fresh herbs I need, though it's winter, so I'am all set.
I love cannellini beans, but my everyday beans are Paul's mix, a locally grown, organic bean medley that I have already featured on this blog, which has proved to be perfect in all bean dishes I have prepared with it. Plus, it reminds me about the great variety of beans out there.
These are the ingredients I use for the gratin:
- 1 cup (200 g, 7 oz.) Paul's mix beans (original recipe: dried cannellini beans) [see below how to cook beans with aromatics]
- 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (from my homemade bread)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (prezzemolo)
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped sage (salvia)
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary (rosmarino)
- 1 garlic clove (2 if they are small)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (senape di Digione)
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (aceto di vino rosso)
- Sea salt
How to cook dry beans
I follow my usual method rather than that described in section 1 of the original recipe.
The way I cook beans for further use comes from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison (Beans with Aromatics). After soaking a cup of dry beans for several hours or overnight in enough water to cover them by about an inch (I use 3 1/2 cups), empty the whole bowl into a saucepan and add
- A small onion (or half of a medium one), halved
- A large bay leaf
- A large clove of garlic, or two small ones, sliced
- A few sprigs of fresh parsley
- A piece of kombu or other seaweed of choice (optional)
If it feels that there is not enough water to cook the beans well, add 1/2 cup. Bring the water to a lively boil quickly, and keep it there for five minutes, then turn down the heat and let the beans simmer, covered, until they are ready. How long this takes depends on the type of beans and their freshness. Let them cool in their broth, then remove the aromatics and discard them. Let the beans rest in their cooking broth until ready to use.
How to prepare the topping and season the beans
I follow section 2 of the instructions, using 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. (Be extra careful here, since the bread crumbs burn easily.) Then, I follow section 3.
How to finish the dish
I follow section 4 of the recipe, with the following adjustments:
- Transfer the drained beans to a Pyrex pie plate (9.5-inch / 24 cm diameter) and lightly salt them, then stir.
- Set aside 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid and don't drain the beans completely.
- Whisk in the vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil into the remaining garlic-mustard mixture, then stir in the reserved bean cooking liquid.
- Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top and bake on the top shelf for 15 minutes.
As noted in the recipe, you can cook the beans and toast the bread crumbs ahead of time.
This is my contribution to My Legume Love Affair 55 the current edition of the popular, legume-centered event created by Susan, The Well-Seasoned Cook, and hosted this month by the creator herself. This post contains the roundup of the event.
And I am submitting this recipe, bookmarked on my copy of the December 2012 edition of Food & Wine magazine, to Bookmarked Recipes #20, an event originally started by Ruth of Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments and now hosted by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes. This post contains the roundup of the event.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the fagioli gratinati audio file [mp3].
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