Tender Tales of Cannellini Beans
Words you don’t want to hear from your taster after working eleven hours on a meal: “That’s going to be awesome. Tomorrow.” The meal was Cannellini beans with tomatoes, garlic, and sage. The taster was my husband.
I ‘d been frustrated by cooking beans before. Tongue of Fire beans, freshly harvested. Peak tenderness was not achieved. So this time I did my research. I rinsed them, soaked them for eight hours, slow simmered them with a carrot, onions and garlic for another two. Then simmered them some more with tomatoes, sausage, and more garlic.
I’ve noticed in Alice Waters’ cookbook, The Art of Simple Food, that she encourages the cook to taste their creation often. Especially when cooking beans. Move on only when the beans are “just tender.” You are finished when you can mash the beans easily with the back of a spoon. So this is exactly what I did.
I should have known that the husband and I had a different definition of ‘cooked tender.’ He’s particular about potatoes. He always has a comment about potato doneness. I’ve finally learned to include him in testing for tenderness before the potatoes are done. If he has a chance to place his stamp of approval on the dish before it’s plated, dinner is free of potato comments. (Though I don’t think the tenderness level of my potatoes has actually changed much.) This trick could be the secret to a long and happy marriage.
The beans and the recipe came from Berry Patch Farms.
I didn’t notice the label until later: “Fresh Cannellini Beans.” In bean parlance ‘fresh’ means just picked and not dried. I don’t think beans can be both fresh AND dried. Can they? Were these beans dried? I peeled away the skin and place one between my front teeth.
It felt like biting into a fossilized peanut. Yes, definitely dried.
The whole soaking thing was new for me. After a few hours, some of the bean skins looked like a wrinkly fingertip after too long in the shower.
A few hours later, the beans had plumped up and nearly doubled in size. Cool.
Alice says Cannellini beans are good for a lot of Italian and French dishes. They have a creamy consistency and a mild taste. The recipe from Berry Patch Farms looks like a version of a classic Italian dish called ‘fagioli all’uccelletto.’
They can also be used in soups, gratins, and purees. Dried beans can last up to a year when kept in a sealed container. They’re an affordable and nutritious form of protein.
They also keep well after being cooked. Like my bean dish that’s in the fridge right now. It’s tomorrow. I wonder what the husband will think of the beans today.
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