Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beans and Pasta

I guess it's because I'm lacking that particular floaty toy in my Irish-Scottish-Alsatian-Austrian-Native American gene pool, but I've never really been attracted to the Italian penchant for combining pasta with beans. But this very tempting-sounding recipe from contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food has piqued my curiousity to do some culinary exploring.

The red beans in this recipe are grown by Haricot Farms in Quincy, Washington (near Yakima), and are certified sustainable by the Food Alliance. They’re fresher than the average supermarket bean and have great flavor.

I cook them using my no-soak, slow-cook approach. And ever since seeing a quote from a grizzled Tuscan (they are known as mangiafagiole or bean eaters, after all) to the effect that “beans cooked in a metal pot aren’t worth eating,” I’ve used a garage sale ceramic bean pot. I fill it about a third full, add a good pinch of sea salt, a healthy glug of extra virgin olive oil, and fill it most of the way up with water. A few hours in a 250° oven and they’re usually tender, though sometimes I need to add a little more water.

Add the cooked beans to soup, use them for composed salads, or eat them plain, drizzled with more extra virgin olive oil. Try a bowl topped with a poached or fried egg for breakfast.

Garbanzos need soaking, or least they seem to hold together better during cooking if they’re rehydrated. I soak overnight, then simmer in salted water until tender (on top of the stove, in a metal pot....go figure). Don’t discard the stock; it’s delicious and can be used in soup or added to pasta-garbanzo dishes like this:

Rapini, ceci, e pasta

Cook a bunch of rapini (aka broccoli raab) in plenty of well-salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain, let cool a little and chop coarsely.

Chop a few garlic cloves and cook briefly in extra virgin olive oil. Add the chopped rapini, about a cup and half of cooked garbanzos (ceci in Italian), and a half cup or so of the garbanzo cooking liquid.

Have a pot of water boiling so you can drop in a pound of good pasta at about the same time. An extruded shape, rather than a long noodle, works better for this, and I like to use 100% semolina Italian pasta.

Cook the rapini and ceci for about 10 minutes, or until the pasta is done. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta to the pan with the rapini, add a quarter cup or so of pasta water, and cook together for a few minutes. Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

No comments: