It is the dead of winter right? Sweaters, stews and hot toddies should be staples right now to help get through the short days. Should be, is the key phrase. You guys, it is hot. Its easily 90 degrees out. I’ve been debating going to the beach all day. If I still had a surfboard, I would be at the beach.
I know that living in Southern California, I should never assume what “winter” will be like. I’ve gone to the beach on my birthday (in February). But I’m not ready for this. For starters, I’m really hot because I’m wearing jeans. When you’re single during winter, one of the perks is you don’t have to shave. Sure you could, but if you don’t want to shave for 1 2 months you don’t have to.
I’m also in full winter mode for food. I don’t want a perfectly grilled steak. I don’t want a salad. I want stew. I want soup. I want a giant pot of perfectly cooked beans that are hearty enough to make me forget they’re vegan, but light enough to not kill my attempt lose the 5 pounds I gained over the holidays. (Helpful hint: just because you get a hand packed box of See’s chocolate doesn’t mean you have to eat all of it in one sitting. But its easy to do with a bottle of wine and a string of bad romantic comedies.)
So, if you live somewhere where the thermometer is going to drop below 60, go make a pot of beans. The base is a delicious Italian flavored sofrito (that I’m going to make a giant batch of next time and freeze) which takes some time, but the beans are simmered unattended. I thought they were going to take a couple of hours to cook so I went to a dance lesson, and they were done when I got home an hour later. Did I mention there is no soaking required?
I kept these beans vegan, but they would be amazing with some spicy Italian sausage.
I never soak beans that are turning into a stew. I will soak beans that are going into a salad. If your beans are really, really old, a soak might be a good idea, but still not mandatory. I don’t salt beans until they reach the point of no return, about 3/4 of the way thru cooking. They still have some crunch, but are clearly going to soften.
I was under the weather when I made these, but if I hadn’t been, I would have gone to the store for some chard or kale to add towards the end. Your choice.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots (or 1 small onion), diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
16 oz dried white beans (I used a bag from the grocery store, but this would be even better with some heirloom beans), rinsed and picked thru for stones and such
1 bay leaf
Heat a large heavy bottom pot (or dutch oven) over medium low heat. Add the olive oil, shallot, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. Add the garlic, rosemary and continue to cook until the vegetables break down into a delicious browned mush. It sounds weird, but trust me on this one. If the garlic starts to burn, add some water to the pot--it will help the veggies break down. This step takes awhile. It took me almost an hour.
When the veggies have turned to mush, add the tomato paste. Cook another 3-5 minutes, until the tomato paste begins to brown.
Deglaze the pot with the white wine, being sure to scrape up any delicious brown bits (aka fond) from the bottom of the pan. Add the beans, and 8 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, and cook uncovered until softened but still with some crunch (this happened with my beans at an hour, but I’ve had it take as long as 3). If the beans look dry, add some more water. Generously season with salt. Continue to cook until the beans are completely softened.
Serve with some toasted bread, and a spoonful of pesto or a drizzle of balsamic. Swoon. Eat the bowl. Repeat for breakfast with a poached egg on top.