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white bean ragout

May 23rd, 2012 | 1 Comment »

I’ve been phenomenally absorbed by Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal. I’ve barely even gotten through half of it because I read, re-read, underline, contemplate, read AGAIN and then think about it like my very life depends on those words filling every pore in my body. Have you read it? If you love food, and you love simple, easy, good food, I strongly encourage you to pick it up, but be warned….. this book could change the way you cook and I urge you to own it so you can really enjoy the prose, the story, the thoughtful way that Tamar looks at the very things that sustain us.

I’m grateful to this book too, as it came to me through a renewed relationship with an old friend from high school. Connecting on Facebook, even though she lives in Brussels, Belgium, we’ve exchanged many emails about food, and her quest for some information on what constitutes ‘good’ olive oil led to a long discussion about this book. A few days later, the book itself arrived on my doorstep, courtesy of this friendship, and now I know why Barbara was so moved by it.

Tamar’s philosophy about food is utterly simple. It doesn’t have to be complex in the least, and she states this over and over again, through every chapter, rich with descriptives of meals so ridiculously simple that it honestly could inspire even the most timid home cook to become brazen in their own kitchen. The chapter on beans gave me more to think about regarding the humble legume than I’d ever imagined, and was the inspiration when along came a day where a simmering pot of beans just seemed like the thing to do.

Simple and fulfilling meals have always been my most favorite. I don’t mind fancy eating, once in a great while, but my start on food was a humble beginning, and I’ve lived through some seasons where there just wasn’t enough on the table. I’m not particular about my food, either. I’ll eat most anything I’m served and I’m grateful for it, as the memories of hunger will always remain within me. To me, a pot of beans is a thing of beauty; savory without a lot of work, filling without heft, satisfying like an old friend. It’s soul {filling} food, that which makes you just feel good. Although I do enjoy the long process, on occasion, that a dried bean requires for preparation, I keep on hand a wide variety of canned beans, and in a pinch, these have saved dinner, lunch and even breakfast from mediocrity. A good time simmering and they become so creamy soft and perfect. With a loaf of chewy bread, it’s royalty on a plate, by way of a peasant’s wage.

White Bean Ragout

2 large onions, minced fine
1 bell pepper, minced fine
3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes
2 15-oz cans Great Northern white beans, or Cannellini
2 c. vegetable broth
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley and basil (I don’t recommend subbing in dried)
1/2 c. shredded fresh parmesan cheese
Baguette slices

First, we’ll roast those tomatoes. Slice each one in to quarters, remove the tough core and place on a baking sheet. Heat the oven to 400°. Drizzle the tomato wedges generously with good olive oil, and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Place in the oven and roast until the skins blacken slightly and get all puffy, but not to the point of collapse. You want some heft left in them. Allow them to cool slightly, discard the skins and gently lift them in to a small bowl. Any oil remaining on the pan can be scraped in to the bowl as well.

As the tomatoes roast, heat a large, deep skillet and add oil of choice. Saute the onions and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, for about 25-30 minutes, or until they are very, very soft. Add in the sliced garlic and continue to cook for about 15 more minutes. Don’t allow the vegetables to brown too much. A little is good. Sprinkle them with sea salt and some cracked pepper.

Take the tomatoes and add them to the pan, breaking them up with a spoon. Make sure you add all the juice and oil that’s accumulated too. That’s delicious. Stir in the beans and add the broth. Allow the mixture to simmer, gently, stirring it on occasion, until the broth is thickened and the beans are nice and creamy. If it seems to get too dry and/or sticks to the pan, add more liquid, like broth, or even water. Taste for salt and pepper, adding more if you wish. Add a few tablespoons of shredded parm to the vegetables.

Sprinkle the baguette slices with more parmesan and either broil or toast in a toaster oven until browned and crispy. Alternately, you can grill the bread too, adding the parm when the bread is slightly charred and hot. Place your toasted bread on a plate and scoop the beans over them, making sure to drizzle the liquid on as well. Top with more parm and the fresh herbs. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Recipe origin: Bon Appetit magazine, May 2012; here with adaptations

One Response to “white bean ragout”

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