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With great reluctance, I finally returned The Heart of the Plate to the library. As you may have guessed from my enthusiastic posts about some of the recipes I tried--Lablabi, Hot-Sweet-Sour Soup with Tofu and Pineapple, Cheese Crusted Roasted Cauliflower, and Spring Farro--it's a lovely cookbook, with a wide variety of interesting recipes that would appeal to both vegetarians and omnivores (I base this assessment on Mike, whose initial resistance to the offerings of a vegetable-based vegetarian cookbook gave way to a request that I check the book out from the library again this summer to find some new ideas for our CSA produce). Thanks The Heart of the Plate, I finally cooked with farro, which I had wanted to try for long time but never quite got around to tracking down at the grocery store, and I also conquered my bean phobia.
For whatever reason, the idea of cooking beans from scratch has always been intimidating to me. It's not as though it's technically difficult: you just dump some beans and some water in a pot and simmer. It just seemed unduly complicated, between the pre-soaking the night before and the hour-long cooking time. But when I finally got around to cooking beans, I had a "why haven't I done this before" kitchen epiphany. When simmered with herbs and garlic, the beans are infused with a subtle flavor, and the texture is better than the canned variety. It's even kind of meditative to watch them bubble away atop the stove. I'm sure that I will still rely on canned beans for weeknight dinners, but making a batch of beans from scratch and then combining them with whole grains and vegetables was a tremendously satisfying way to spend a weekend evening.
Since the dried cannellini beans the recipe called for were unavailable at my local grocery store, I substituted Great Northern beans with good results.
Adapted from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen
- 1 cup dried cannellini or Great Northern beans, soaked overnight and drained
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cloves garlic, halved
- 1 1/2 cups dry farro
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups minced onion
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar
- black pepper, to taste
- about 3/4 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
Place soaked beans in a Dutch oven and cover with two inches of water. Add fresh sage, bay leaf, and garlic halves. Bring to a boil, cover loosely, and reduce heat to medium. Cook at a low boil until beans are tender, about 50 minutes. Remove the fresh sage, bay leaf, and garlic halves and drain beans.
Meanwhile, combine 4 1/2 cups water and farro in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook at a low boil until farro is chewy-tender, about 20 minutes. Drain farro in a colander and shake to remove excess water.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat for a minute. Add oil and tilt to evenly coat skillet with oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to soften, about two minutes. Add the dried sage, thyme, oregano, crushed red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for another five minutes. Add the minced garlic, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover the skillet. Cook, removing the cover occasionally to stir, until onions are dark brown, about 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and add the prepared farro and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Stir to combine. Add the vinegar and season to taste with black pepper. Gently stir in the prepared beans, and then gently stir in the cherry tomatoes.