beans! beans! they’re good for your heart! the more you eat, the more you fart… unless you change the soaking water every couple of hours to remove the offending sugar molecules called oligosaccharides. see what you get from me? both immaturity and education! i am like so totally worth your time…
after the butter and cream, the foie gras and all the excesses of december, and then with the inevitable regrouping that comes each january, here we are in february and i’m ready for some simple cool weather comfort food. and the fact that beans are low fat and don’t cost a fortune – well you’ve gotta love the beans if only for that. so after months of hearing endless raves about rancho gordo’s heirloom beans, i could stand it no longer and i went to their tres cool site and placed an order. and voila, as promised a box arrived at my door with an assortment of no less than 10 bags of some mighty fine looking legumes. now i guess i’ve got my work cut out for me…
i opted to begin with the borlotti beans. they’re similar to cranberry beans but the coloration is different and they’re slightly bigger. borlotti’s are commonly used in italian cooking and i’ve been wanting to make ribollita for awhile now, so this seemed like perfect timing. and well, that timing – it’s everything… so i started reading up and it seems that every cook’s ribollita recipe varies, but all share the common theme of taking dried beans, stale bread and winter vegetables – and wowing the hell out of you. ribollita translates from the italian to ‘re-boiled’. as with most stews and soups, this dish benefits by sitting for a day and then reheated the next.
3 cups dry borlotti beans, soaked 8 hours
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
8 cloves garlic, peeled, 4 left whole, 4 minced
6 ounces pancetta – medium dice
2 large onions – coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup canned Italian tomatoes
4 carrots – chopped
4 celery ribs – chopped
1 fennel bulb – sliced
1/2 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley
6 sprigs fresh thyme – chopped
2 pound cavalo nero (lacinato kale) washed, trimmed and cut into thin strips
1 pound potatoes, coarsely diced
thin slices of stale tuscan bread – i used a loaf of pugliese
1. drain beans after soaking and cover generously with fresh water, adding the sage and the 4 whole cloves of garlic. bring beans to boil and cook 45 minutes to one hour, until they are quite tender. reserve liquid.
2. meanwhile, saute the pancetta, the 4 minced garlic cloves and the onions in the olive oil.
3. when beans are cooked, puree half of them in a food processor, using a little of the cooking liquid
4. combine the pureed and the whole beans with the pancetta mixture and with tomatoes, carrots, celery, thyme, kale, potatoes and 3 cups of the bean broth. cook for 30 to 60 minutes, adding water if soup becomes more like porridge. season well with salt and pepper.
5. place a layer of bread in a casserole and top with some soup. repeat until all the bread is used, ending with soup on top. the dish can be served this way, as a bean and bread soup. to make this a true ribollita, refrigerate overnight. the next day, mash the soup and the bread into a thick porridge. boil to reheat. as an alternative, you may saute the ribollita in a non-stick skillet in some olive oil until it forms a light crust. in either case, each serving should then be topped with your very best olive oil. i added slivers of parmigiano.
and yes, i grabbed my skillet and opted for the lightly crusted version. i mean, how could you not? my ribollita was then served right alongside a simple salad of romaine with dried cherries and a walnut oil and black fig vinaigrette.
it’s as close to tuscany as i’ve been in too long.