Great Northern Beans
Beans, in all their varieties, are without a doubt one of the world’s most valuable foods. They’re packed with nutrition, versatile to cook with, and of course delicious. Although beans are often thought of as peasant food, almost every one of the world’s cuisines has a traditional, and usually superb, dish featuring a native variety of beans.
There is nothing quite like slow cooked baked beans French Canadian style any time of the year and many years ago when my repertoire of recipes and dinner ideas was much smaller, that’s where my soaked beans were headed. Except… being a busy mom with a bunch of little kids, the beans didn’t get in the oven with enough time to bake sufficiently. So I simply boiled the soaked beans, added some sautéed onion and garlic, spooned some home canned, crushed tomatoes over them along with a sprinkling of my Italian herb blend to give a little more flavor. The little kids didn’t need the extra flavoring and were happy with just butter on the beans, but when I discovered how easy it was to feed them such nutritious food, variety expanded from those simple boiled beans. Florentine style was-is popular and easy.
1 pound dried great northern beans—navy or lima are good alternatives
2 medium onions diced
3-4 garlic cloves minced
Canned plum tomatoes
1 tsp sage or Italian herbs blend (Sage is traditional in Florentine beans)
Salt and Pepper to taste.
— In a heavy lidded saucepan, soak beans in 10 times the water at least 4 hours, drain and discard soaking water.
–Rinse well and cover with about 2 inches of water or stock. Bring to a boil over high heat then turn down to simmer adding liquid as necessary. Ideally, the right amount of liquid is enough for the beans to cook to tender by the time the liquid is used up but beans aren’t totally dry. Cooking time will depend on how old the beans are, usually 1½ to 2 hours.
–Sauté onion, garlic and sage or herbs until onion is tender.
–Add beans with just enough liquid to keep them moist and gently combine to heat through.
–Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
–Serve on a soup plate and top with canned, crushed or plum tomatoes. A splattering of minced fresh herbs of your choice finishes it off nicely.
–For meat lovers—sauté your choice of meat or reheat leftovers with the onions, garlic and herbs before adding the beans. A little bacon in particular adds a huge amount of satisfying flavor as well as quick cooking.
–Beans cooked as such are so tasty on their own but lend themselves to accompanying a variety of flavors. I’ve served them with tomatoes and basil or cilantro pesto, my own preserved roasted red peppers and lately our favorite has become topping them off with Tanya Skeates Soupcon recipe of Thai green curry paste. Add your favorite exotic condiment and you will have a simple, sustainable and delicious meal.