Creamy Tender White Beans
Cannelini, Great Northern, Navy, Baby Lima. The next time you whip up a winter soup or want to round out a lunchtime salad, give one of these delicious beans a try!
Their creamy texture and nutty flavor make white beans a top choice when cooking everything from traditional Italian to down-home Southern. They work well with a wide range of other flavors and ingredients, and beans make even the simplest meal nutritious and satisfying.
White beans can be used interchangeably in many recipes, but they do have some subtle differences. Limas tend to be buttery and earthy while cannelinis are sweet and firm. Great Northerns can have a crumbly texture that works well in stews, but creamy navy beans are a better choice for casseroles.
BEANS FROM SCRATCH
Makes 5-6 cups
1 pound dried beans, any kind
1-3 teaspoons salt
Place the beans in a large bowl and cover them with several inches of water. Discard any beans that float to the top. Cover the bowl and soak the beans 8 hours or overnight.
Drain and rinse the beans. Place them in a 4- to 6-quart pot with a lid and cover them with an inch of water. Bring the beans and water to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover the pan, but leave the lid slightly ajar so steam can escape.
Cook until the beans are soft and creamy, about 2-4 hours depending on the freshness of your beans. Add 1-3 teaspoons of salt toward the middle of cooking, and more to taste. Add more water as needed so the beans stay covered.
This recipe equals about 4 (15-ounce) cans of store-bought beans.
ROASTED GARLIC AND WHITE BEAN SOUP
1 pound white beans
2 heads garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
1 tablespoon minced rosemary
1 teaspoon minced thyme
1 bay leaf
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1/4 - 1/2 cup whole milk or cream
Salt and pepper
Soak and cook the beans as described above.
Heat the oven to 375 F. Remove the papery outer layers of the garlic, but leave the head intact. Using a sharp knife, trim the top 1/4 inch off the heads to expose the cloves. Drizzle both heads with oil, sprinkle with salt, and wrap them loosely in aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes, until soft and fragrant.
Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a 6-quart pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the onions with one teaspoon of salt until they are translucent. Add the celery and cook until the celery is soft and the onions are beginning to brown.
Add the herbs, beans, broth and water. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for another 20 minutes.
Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and into a food processor or blender. For a softer flavor, reserve the one of the heads of garlic for spreading on toast. Scoop about 1/3 of the soup into the food processor and puree.
Return the pureed soup and garlic to the pan. Add 1/4 cup milk or cream and stir to combine. Taste and add more milk, salt or pepper as desired. Remove the bay leaf and serve.
Soup will keep refrigerated up to one week or frozen for six months.
BARBECUE BAKED BEANS
1 pound white beans
6 slices bacon, preferably smoked
1 onion, diced small
1 green pepper, diced small
1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
Cook beans as described above until they are completely soft and creamy.
Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9- by 13-inch pan with nonstick spray.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until almost all of the fat has rendered. Lay the bacon on a paper towel to drain. Pour off all but one tablespoon of the bacon fat.
Cook the onions until they are translucent. Add the green peppers and cook until soft. Cut the cooked bacon into small pieces. Add the bacon, the beans and the rest of the sauce ingredients to the pan, and mix until everything is evenly coated. At this point, the sauce will look fairly watery and thin.
Pour the beans into the baking dish, using a spatula to scrape up every bit of sauce. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1/2 hour. Uncover and bake for another 15-30 minutes until the sauce is thick, syrupy, and clings to the beans.
Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving. Leftovers keep refrigerated up to one week or frozen for six months.
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(c) 2010 Emma Christensen