I am a bean lover and since I eat a lot of vegetarian food, beans are huge. I use canned beans, for sure, but when I take the time to soak and simmer and carefully prepare a big pot of garlic-scented beans, there’s a lot of love in that pot. The recipe here calls for cannellini beans, but I cook all kinds of dried beans: black, pinto, Roman – whatever, really, I can get my hands on. Once you’ve made that pot of beans, it’s like a blank canvas and the possibilities are many. Use them in chili, in soup, on salad. They are good simply out of the pot. The only tiny secret to getting a big, tasty pot of beans (aside from, of course, the time spent cooking them) is adding salt. I know, I know, we’ve been told our whole lives to not salt beans. Salt makes beans tough, they said. Don’t add salt, they told us. I don’t know who said it first, but it’s so ingrained that perhaps we are born believing it. And, get this: it’s not true. A little salt in the soaking liquid helps tenderize the skin of your beans, and a little more salt in the simmering liquid gives them flavor. Beans cooked without salt taste exactly like cardboard. I know this, because I’ve done it. So please, add a little salt, along with all that love, into your pot of beans. Here, cannellini beans are used as a base for flavorful roasted cherry tomatoes. Those simple little tomatoes become jammy and sweet when roasted and the feta changes texture, acting more like a creamy cheese than a crumbly one. All of this makes the kind of dinner I love: simple, rustic and those beans which took so much time to make? There was enough to eat and enough to share. What is not to love?
From my October Times Union column. Read it here.
Love Letter Pot of Beans with Roasted Tomatoes + Feta
1 pound dried cannellini beans
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 rosemary stem
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Roasted Tomatoes and Feta Cheese (recipe follows)
- Rinse the dried beans well. Place in a large bowl and pour enough water over to cover by a few inches and stir in 2 teaspoons of salt. Allow to soak overnight.
- Drain the beans and place them in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add enough fresh water to cover by a few inches, then add the bay leaf, rosemary, crushed pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook on low for 8 hours. Taste a bean and check for tenderness. If the beans are not completely tender, switch the setting to high and cook for another half hour, or until cooked throughout.
- Serve with the Roasted Tomatoes and Cheese, or use in soup. Cooked beans can be drained and frozen for up to six months.
- Roasted Tomatoes and Feta Cheese
3 pints of cherry tomatoes
1 head of garlic
7 ounce block of feta cheese
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a shallow baking dish (about 9” x 12”) with parchment paper. Lay the tomatoes on the paper. Halve the garlic horizontally and nestle in the tomatoes. Cut the feta into ¼” sections and add to the tomatoes. Pour the balsamic and olive oil over all and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and blistered. Press the garlic head to remove the softened cloves and serve with a scoop of cannellini beans.