Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Perfect Pot of Beans

A perfect pot of beans is all I really need. And no fancy fixings either. Just mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery), good olive oil, fresh herbs and I'm set. If you know me though, there is a catch. I'm not just eating any old bean. I'm talking heirloom varietals, my friend. What? You thought heirloom only referred to tomatoes? Oh no. There is an entire world of heirloom/heritage foods just waiting to be explored. Pork, turkey, potatoes, beans, the list goes on. First, a little explanation. Heirloom foods come from older plant/animal varietals that have not been used in agricultural mass production. They are more genetically diverse (which is better for the soil and environment) than the monoculture plants/animals we eat when buying conventionally raised produce and meat. They are also typically more resistance to pests and disease. Here is an easy way to think of it. Heirloom food is to a mutt as conventional produce is to a purebred. SAT's anyone? Though the purebred looks good there is always something a little off. You know what I'm talking about. Purebreds are often insane, sickly, and rarely the sharpest tool in the shed. Then there is the mutt. He may not be pretty but he's clever, resourceful and knows how to survive in the wild. That's your heirloom.

I made a pot of these delicious beans for some friends Sunday night. After dinner one of our guests said," I was scared about what you were making for dinner, you know, because it was vegetarian and all. But those beans....those were REALLY good." So good in fact, he emailed me the next day for the recipe. That's right, I thought. Another bean convert down, a few million to go.

Borlotti Beans with Mirepoix and Fresh Herbs
I used borlotti beans in this dish for the simple fact that I adore them. Their creamy yet meaty flavor and consistency is unlike any other bean I've experienced. I buy them from Rancho Gordo, the best bean company on earth! Don't worry, if you can't find borlotti. Any of their beans will work in this recipe. You can also cook the beans days in advance to cut down on kitchen time.

1 pound bag borlotti beans, soaked overnight
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 TBS mint, freshly chopped
1/4 cup parsley, freshly chopped
Celtic sea salt
Favorite good quality finishing olive oil (I use Bariani, cold pressed and unfiltered)
Good quality Parmesan cheese

In a large pot rinse and drain pre-soaked beans, cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for 1 1/2 hours. Check the beans for doneness. They should be toothy but creamy. If they are hard or crunchy, give them another 1/2 hour. When the beans are done, drain them into a large colander and RESERVE THE COOKING LIQUID. This is the pot liquor to be used later.

In the same large pot, saute onions, carrot, and celery with olive oil and salt until vegetables have softened. Add in the beans (I usually put 1 cup of cooked beans aside to fry up the next day. So good!), cooking liquid, and salt and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. When ready to serve, stir in mint and parsley, drizzle with olive oil and add more salt if needed. Dust with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

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