By Deborah Reid
The recipe owes much to one I adore in the River Café Cookbook, although I have taken quite a bit of creative license here and there. Like any braised dish, these beans are best the day after they are cooked. They can be kept covered in the refrigerator for over a week and freeze well, and can be transformed in a number of ways. I’ll often puree them for dips or puree half, keep the rest whole, and add cooked pasta for pasta fagioli soup, or serve them on their own as part of an antipasti platter or simply tossed in a salad. Do not skimp on the extra virgin olive oil as it gives the beans a wonderful, and essential, richness.
Makes 8 to 12 servings
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
2 sprigs basil
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 1/2 lbs fresh borlotti beans, shelled, or 3/4-lb dried (soaked overnight if dried, and then drained and rinsed)
1 large onion, peeled and cut in half through the root
1 carrot, cut in half
1 stalk celery, cut in half
1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 large ripe tomato, cored and cut in half
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
3 to 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup (approximately) extra virgin olive oil Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Using a short length of kitchen twine, tie together the parsley, basil, thyme and rosemary; set aside. In a Dutch oven or large pot, add the borlotti beans. Bury the herb bundle, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, tomato and bay leaves among the beans.
Add enough broth to just cover the bean mixture. Pour over enough of the oil to cover the beans by about 1/2-inch. Cover the pot with a lid. Bake in a 325° F oven until the beans are very tender, 90 minutes to 2 hours. Remove and discard the herb bundle, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, tomato and bay leaves. (Or, if desired, you can puree the cooked onion, garlic and tomato, removing the skin from the garlic and tomato first, and stir this back into the pot, which adds extra deliciousness to the finished beans.) Season the beans liberally with salt and pepper, as required, while still warm.