4 Ingredients: White Beans.....a versatile addition to salads and main dishes

Braised Monkfish and Shrimp with Fennel, Tomato and White Beans

I get a little jazzed up about good beans. Think about a semi-fancy salad that has had small white beans sprinkled over the top. Or an Italian appetizer of white beans with garlic, olive oil and herbs (with maybe with a little pancetta or prscioutto). A hearty French stew or cassoulet.

But I also think of bean cooking as a total hassle. Soaking overnight, rinsing, etc. ending up with mush. So sometimes I've resorted to a can of 'high quality' imported white beans. Well, that's not too great a solution either.

Here's what might work best - soak dried beans for 'a while', then cook them with some aromatics until they taste  right. The longer you soak the shorter the cooking. Big beans take longer too. Keeping it that simple, and not obsessing about cooking times and procedures should help make bean cooking less intimidating.

1 cup dried white beans
1 carrot
1 small onion
1 bay leaf
  1. Soak the beans in cold water overnight, or for a few hours. Put beans in a pot and cover with cold water. 
  2. Bring to a simmer, stir occasionally and cook for 30 minutes or up to two hours. Taste a few along the way, and as soon as they have a texture you like, take them off the heat and drain them. 
  3. Add a little olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Serving suggestions: 
- Toss with olive oil, drained flaky tuna, chopped herbs and chopped hardboiled eggs. 
- Serve as an accompaniment to most any soup
- Mash a few tablespoons with fork, add garlic, herbs and spread on a cracker
- Use as a replacement for rice

Four Ingredients: Fried Eggs, Bread (or polenta) Crumbs and Herbs

I can't say these pictures are even in the ballpark for how good this tastes - just try it some weekend morning when you've got a slice of high quality bread lying around. There was some leftover grilled polenta in my kitchen so I crumbled that up. Big bread crumbs are probably better than the polenta.

  1. Pulse a piece of rustic bread in a food processor or blender to make coarse bread crumbs.
  2. Cook bread crumbs over med-high heat in oil or butter to toast. Reserve a few on the side. 
  3. Add two eggs. If you want to, flip them with a spatula after 2 minutes. Or do the sunny side up thing. 
  4. Sprinkle some chopped fresh herbs atop. Top with reserved crumbs. 
  5. Further, top with a slice of crispy pancetta, if that happens to be lying around your kitchen too. Bacon or bacon crumbles would be good. But frankly, the egg, crumbs and herbs don't need the pig.    

This dish was inspired by Judy Rodgers, Zuni Cafe.


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