White Bean Stew with Rosemary, Garlic, and Farro

I have always found the notion of a big pot of rosemary-laced white beans rather charming, but every recipe I’ve tried has fallen flat.  But these beans! They are insane.  In a delicious way. I am in love with them- which sounds weird- but I swear, when I think about this pot of beans, I feel a fondness and a warmth not unlike love.  I think these beans are so amazing for two reasons:  1) The cooking liquid is great- I think a large part of this is owed to the parmesan rind, so do try to include it.  You’ll really really want to top the beans with parmesan anyway, so go ahead and buy a small chunk of it that includes the rind, cut that part off, and toss it in the pot.  2) The finished beans are topped with a friendly little mix of things that make them sing: aleppo (a great and not too hot chile flake), parmesan, parsley, sea salt, and lemon (use Meyer lemon if you can get your hands on one).  The combination is just brilliant.  Also- farro is fun! I had never had it before making this recipe, but I’ll definitely eat it a lot now- it’s like a nuttier version of pasta (Austinites- they sell it in bulk in CM, which is good, because it’s a little pricey).  Anyway, I think everyone should make and eat these right away.  They are delicious, and healthy, and will give you a warm love-y twinkle in your eye.

P.S. I got Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now for Christmas, and I’m cooking my way through it eagerly.  It really may be one of my favorite cookbooks ever.

White Bean Stew with Rosemary, Garlic, and Farro
from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried cannellini beans
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 celery stalk, cut in half crosswise (reserve celery leaves for garnishing)
  • 1 large onion halved lengthwise from root to stem so it holds together
  • 1 whole clove (stick in the onion half)
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Piece of Parmesan rind, if you have it
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt, more to taste
  • 1 cup farro, rinsed
  • Flaky salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel
  • ¼ teaspoon Turkish or Syrian red pepper such as Urfa, Maras or Aleppo
  • Chopped celery or parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)
  • Lemon juice and Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

  1. If you have the time and would like to soak your beans ahead, this will shorten your cooking time. Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with several inches of water. Let soak for as long as you can. Overnight is optimal but even a few hours will hasten the cooking.
  2. When ready to cook, drain the beans and place them along with the oil, 3 of the garlic cloves, the celery, and the onion in a large pot over medium-heat. Bundle the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf together, tie securely with kitchen twine, and throw it into the pot (or just throw the untied herbs into the pot, though you will have to fish them out later). Add the Parmesan rind, if using. Cover everything with water and stir in the salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer, partially covered, until the beans are soft. This can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, depending on how long (if at all) you soaked your beans and how old your dried beans were when you go them. A test of doneness is to place a bean in your palm and blow on it (the natural thing to do since it will be hot). If the skin breaks, it’s ready. Of course, tasting is a better way to tell. If your bean pot starts to look dry before the beans finish cooking, add more water as needed. At the end of cooking, the water should not quite cover the beans. 
  3. Meanwhile, while the beans are cooking, prepare the farro. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the farro, pasta style, until softened. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending upon what kind you use. Drain well.
  4. Mince the remaining 2 garlic cloves
  5. When the beans are cooked, remove and discard the onion, celery, herbs, and Parmesan ride if you used it (you can leave the garlic cloves in the pot; they are yummy). Ladle half of the beans into a food processor or blender, add the minced raw garlic, and puree. Return the bean puree to the pot. (You can skip this step and just stir in the minced garlic; the broth will be thinner but just as tasty).
  6. Serve the beans over the farro, drizzle each portion with plenty of olive oil, then sprinkle with good flaky salt, red pepper, and celery leaves or parsley. If the stew tastes a bit flat, swirl in some lemon juice at the end to perk up the flavors. Grated Parmesan cheese on top is also nice. But make sure not to skimp on the oil, salt and red pepper when serving.  It really makes the whole thing come together.
  • Substitute any dried bean you like for the cannellini beans. This basic bean recipe will work with any of them, though cooking times will vary.
  • Look for semi-pearled farro. It cooks more quickly than whole farro – 20 minutes instead of an hour.  If you can’t find farro, you can substitute wheat berries.  These will take hours to cook, though, so leave yourself plenty of time. Or try brown rice or whole wheat couscous.
  • To add some color and turn this into more of a whole meal, add a bunch or package of spinach, or a small bunch of kale (torn into pieces). Simmer until the greens wilt before serving.

Dinner Ideas II: Kolaches, Creamy Tomato Soup, Apple Panzanella

So much cheese! Did I get carried away? Potentially.  These are kolaches- the savory variety.  I used this recipe for sweet kolaches, omitted the toppings, and instead stuffed the dough with a local jalapeno smoked sausage and so much cheddar.  I brushed them with melted butter and sprinkled them with sea salt.  So nice!

A simply roasted chicken, done using Thomas Keller’s method (dry the bird, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, roast at 450 for an hour) and one of my favorites- apple panzanella.  My friend Abbie created this recipe, and it really is fantastic. You can toast the bread cubes while the chicken is resting, and then your salad will have warm bread and cool crunchy apples. I made a couple changes to the recipe- I used a simple  french batard and tossed the cubes with olive oil and salt and pepper before toasting.  I used parmesan instead of manchego, because that’s what I had on hand, and omitted the arugula because Andy’s not into it.

Cobb Salad. Yes, there is lettuce under there somewhere.  I’m a little embarrassed to show you this picture on account of the obscene pile of bacon in the upper-left, but there you are. This is as simple as it looks- shredded chicken leftover from the night before (rewarmed in bacon drippings), hard-boiled eggs, last-of-the-season tomatoes, avocado, bacon, lettuce, and a simple lemon-y dijon vinaigrette (juice of a meyer lemon, dash of salt and pepper, dip a fork in dijon mustard and then use it to slowly whisk in a couple tablespoons of olive oil- taste and adjust).

My very favorite Creamy Tomato Soup and a grilled cheese sandwich- a meal to celebrate cooler temperatures. This soup is fantastic- try it if you don’t have a tomato soup recipe to call your own. [Side note: you would not believe how many shitty blogs I had to read to find one that listed this recipe as it’s written in the cookbook.  The one I linked to was the best of the bunch, and even so has me rethinking my intentional overuse of exclamation points :/ ]

Orecchiette with Fennel Sausage and Swiss Chard.  I mostly made this because it uses fennel pollen, an up-and-coming ingredient that I’d read about but never tasted.  I sought it out at a special spice shop! This recipe was more work than I wanted to expend for a simple pasta dinner (and I didn’t make the sausage, like the recipe calls for- I bought a fennel sausage from Richardson Farms at the farmers’ market).  It was good, but I don’t think good enough to warrant all the work.  But the fennel pollen- that was fun! Lovely lovely- like a flowery, anise-y breeze!

Up next week: Khichdi, Crispy Chicken and Apple Salad, and Cumin Roasted Cauliflower and Mahogany Glazed Chicken.

Pineapple Salad, Steak Banh Mi, and Other Dinner Ideas

Hi everybody! I’ve been having a lovely time staying home with Henry- he is nice and very very fat. We sit outside in the mornings, and have been able to start going for walks now that the temperature has dropped out of the 100 degree + range.  During Henry’s naps (he’s still sleeping on/next to me for every nap :/ ), I spend my time reading food blogs and looking for dinner ideas on my magic phone. It occurred to me that, with minimal effort on my part, I could snap a picture of the dinners I make during the week, post a link to the recipe, and tell you my overall impression of them.  And then you might get some dinner ideas from me! So this post will cover what we ate for dinner this past week, and hopefully I’ll keep this up in future weeks. Only time will tell!

The salad you see at the top of this post is Pineapple, Greens, and Tofu with Roasted Chile Coconut Dressing.  It was outstanding! And vegan! Andy was predisposed to hate this salad, and thought it was fantastic. It’s also surprisingly filling. Instead of straight old boring tofu, I made tofu cheese, which sounds horrifying but is really great- this technique gives the tofu great texture and a subtle miso flavor- s’nice! One other note- the dressing recipe yields more than one-and-a-half cups of dressing. We used less than a tenth of it, I’d say.  The next time I make this, I’ll scale that way down.

My sister and I had a girl’s night and watched Bridesmaids! Naturally, we also ate a lot of cheese.  We had a collection of cheeses from the $3 or less cheese-bits drawer at Whole Foods, plus tabbouleh, raspberries, honeycrisp apples, almonds, and some of our friend Abbie‘s delicious peach/mango chutney!

With the temperature dipping into the 80s this week, I took that to be as good a sign as any to start making cool-weather foods. This was one of my favorites from last winter- Smothered Cabbage Risotto.  It’s not glamorous, but it’s completely wonderful. Also, if you like science-y food articles, this one offers a really easy risotto cooking technique.

This is a Sausage and Kale Tart, the winner of “Your Best Dirt Cheap Dinner”, a recent food52 contest.  Though I wouldn’t describe it as dirt cheap (sausage + wine + ricotta), it was tasty! I replaced the crust with my favorite partial whole-wheat one, and used two bunches of chard instead of kale.

Steak Banh Mi! Not at all authentic, but a pretty easy and totally delicious weeknight version. This was Andy’s favorite dinner this week, and I loved it too.  Especially with a baguette from Baguette et Chocolat, which sells the best baguettes and batards (and pain au chocolat!) in Austin, which you can buy from their shop or from the farmers’ market at the Burger Center.

Last but not least, Wednesday was my darling sister‘s birthday and she requested a strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting.  I didn’t want to resort to using a cake mix, so I was ecstatic when a reliably awesome food blogger posted this recipe.  It turned out beautifully, and was moist and lovely and not too sweet.  The cream cheese frosting was also perfect, with a little bit of strawberry jam mixed in.  The recipe calls for 10 oz of cake flour, or 2.5 cups- I weighed out 10 oz of flour on my new kitchen scale, and then measured it just for fun, and it yielded only 2 cups, so that’s crazy.

Ok, that’s all! Stay tuned next week for smoked sausage kolaches, creamy tomato soup, and roasted chicken with apple panzanella, among others!