Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuscan White Beans

While recently flipping through the pages of one of my cookbooks, I landed upon a recipe that got my attention immediately.  It wasn't fancy, showy or any of those things.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  A hearty dish that could serve as a substantial side dish or stand on its own as a vegetarian main course, Ina Garten's (aka the Barefoot Contessa) recipe for Tuscan White Beans was on my short list of things to cook--and eat. 

This past Sunday, I finally checked it off the list.  And the timing couldn't have been more perfect, as I welcomed the New Year and the resolve to start afresh with healthier fare.  The white beans, a personal favorite for everything from soups to chili, hummus, salads and tapas, were just what I wanted.   The additional vegetable, herb and aromatic ingredients of carrot, fennel, sage, rosemary and garlic promised great tastes to come.

The recipe is best prepared with dried beans, so prepare to soak them overnight.  And if you can't find the recommended cannellini beans (white kidney beans), great northern beans are an acceptable substitute.   For more on the differences among the white bean varieties, click here.

I decided to serve my "tuscan style" beans with grilled Italian chicken sausage.  It rounded out the meal with a nice kick of heat and bold flavor.  *As a final note, leftovers (if there are any) can be pureed with hot chicken stock (or vegetable stock), for a delicious white bean soup.     
Happy Eating!



Tuscan White Beans
From Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?

Serves 6

1 pound dried white cannellini beans
1/4 cup good olive oil
4 cups chopped fennel, stalks, fronds, and core removed (2 large)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese 

Soak beans overnight.  Cover and refrigerate.

Drain beans, rinse them well, and place them in a large stockpot.  Add twice as much water as you have beans, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes or until the beans are very tender.  Skim off any foam that accumulates.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the fennel and carrots and saute for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.  Drain the beans and add them to the vegetables.  Add the chicken stock, sage, rosemary, sal, and pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 15 minutes, until creamy.  Stir in the pecorino, season to taste, and serve hot.
*Author's Note:  Don't add salt or anything acidic to beans while they boil; it makes the skins tough.

Tuscan White Beans with Grilled Italian Chicken Sausage

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