I won a ton of dried beans by entering My Legume Love Affair this summer and decided it was finally time to start using them. So I set these cranberry beans (also known as Borlotti beans) out to soak the night before last.
I was not sure what I would do with them but knew I'd find something good. After searching online and in some of my favorite cookbooks, I found this recipe in Alice Waters' lovely cookbook, The Art of Simple Food.
Before we decided to move back to Woodstock, NY, we lived in the ghetto (cue Elvis music.) To be more specific, we lived in North Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood, just a few blocks away from Alice's famous restaurant, Chez Panisse. Although we did not go often (dining there regularly would require that we move up an entire socio-economic bracket), we ate there several times during our four years in Berkeley.
It's impossible not to appreciate the lovely food and atmosphere of both the cafe (upstairs) and the restaurant (downstairs). Fresh, flavorful, and carefully crafted to showcase the ingredients' natural beauty and delicious attributes. We also lived a short walk from another of Waters' pet projects, The Edible Schoolyard, where we always enjoyed strolling (some pix of this neighborhood gem can be found here.)
This simple gratin is homey, flavorful, hearty, and really good for you. Unlike eating at Chez Panisse, it's also quite affordable - dried beans are amazingly cheap! Serve it with a loaf of crusty bread (and lots of butter), and a big green salad and call it a meal. Enjoy.
Cranberry Bean Gratin
* 1 1/4 cups dried cranberry beans
* Coarse salt
* 1/2 onion, finely chopped
* 1 small carrot, peeled, finely chopped
* 1 small stalk celery, finely chopped
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
* 6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
* 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
* 1/2 cup Toasted Breadcrumbs
1. Place beans in a large bowl and cover with 4 cups water; let soak overnight.
2. Drain beans and transfer to a medium saucepan; cover with water by 2 inches. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat and skim foam from surface. Continue simmering beans until tender, 30 to 45 minutes, adding more water as necessary. Season beans with salt and set aside to cool in their liquid.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium, heavy-bottomed skillet heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery; cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sage, and season with salt; let cook 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes; cook 5 minutes more and remove from heat.
4. Drain beans, reserving liquid. Transfer beans to skillet with vegetables; stir to combine. Pour bean mixture into a medium gratin or baking dish; season with salt. Add enough bean cooking liquid to almost cover. Drizzle with olive oil and top with toasted breadcrumbs.
5. Transfer gratin dish to oven and bake for 40 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the gratin has not dried out. If necessary spoon a little of the bean cooking liquid into the side of the gratin, to avoid wetting the breadcrumbs.
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