I was mourning our nice weather, because I had just acquired Crescent Dragonwagon’s Bean By Bean: A Cookbook: More than 175 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans! and felt like nothing in it was weather appropriate. It is not yet fresh bean season,but it was unseasonably hot, making me loathe to stew dried beans all day. And then bang! this is Ohio in March and just like that it was cold enough. My first thought upon reading the forecast was “Hooray! I get to use my new bean book!”
I have to apologize, because this is only a partial review of the actual book. Partial because I have not had time to sit down and properly read it, just skim the recipes. And folks, a Crescent Dragonwagon book ought to be savored and read, not just skimmed for recipes. When I read her Cornbread Gospels, it was the first time in my life I ever stayed up late to finish reading a cookbook!
So… no reviews of the book per se, but reviews of the recipe choices, of which there are many. A lot of bean books are comprised of 8 billion Hispanic recipes and one or two not very authentic Indian recipes using a lot of curry powder. And I mean no disrespect to Mexican bean soups, which I adore and have quite a few versions on this blog. But because of that, I did wonder, will this book inspire me to try new flavor combinations? The answer–as expected, because I love Crescent’s books–is heck yeah! There are Indian stews (without curry powder), Asian stews, Mexican stews, Greek stews, Italian soups, American regional soups and stews, Asian desserts made with beans, African stews, recipes for green beans, and recipes that–happily to me–fit no category whatsoever, other than creative, unique and mouth watering. This recipe is one of those last kinds.
Ironically, the recipe is accompanied by a blurb recommending it for a snowy, chilly March, by which point seasonal is starting to mean little anywhere north of the Mason Dixon line. I certainly could not claim chilly, let alone snowy, but at least it had cooled off, and by March in the north no matter what the weather your options are starting to run thin. The original recipe focuses almost exclusively on pantry ingredients, but I was too tempted by the idea of fresh mushrooms in this (and I usually have fresh thyme growing in my garden year round, so it is basically a pantry ingredient). I was also blown away by her totally unique (to me anyway) suggestion of sun-dried tomatoes and red wine pureed into a base liquid for the stew. It was one of those moments where you recognize something as sounding so right you wonder why you never thought of it. It tasted that right also!
- For the beans:
- 2 cups dried Yellow Eye beans
- 1 cup dried rice beans (you can use 3 cups of your choice of dried beans in place of these)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 t salt
- 1 small handful of dried porcini mushrooms
- For the stew:
- 4 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 T minced fresh thyme leaves
- 3 carrots, sliced into rounds or half rounds, depending on thickness
- 1½ lbs crimini mushrooms, sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 t aleppo pepper o(or more to taste)
- AllStar Organics rosemary salt, to taste (see here for where I discuss or just sub 1 t dried rosemary or 1 T fresh)
- 3 T AP flour
- 8 sun-dried tomato rounds, either packed in oil or soaked in hot water
- 1 cup red wine of choice
- 1-3 T balsamic vinegar, to taste
- Begin the beans earlier in the day (or the day before!) by placing in a 4 quart pot with the onion, garlic, and oil. Cover with cold water by 2 inches. Bring to a rolling boil and let boil for 5 minutes. Then cover and reduced heat to maintain a very low simmer. When the beans are barely tender, add the salt and dried porcini mushrooms and let simmer until completely tender (how long this will take can vary wildly--I use Rancho Gordo beans and can count on beans within 3 hours or so). Then turn off the heat and set aside or store in fridge until the next day.
- Place the sun-dried tomatoes and red wine into a blender and puree. You can either do this in advance with the beans or you can do it as you work on the aromatics for the stew.
- About one hour before dinner, heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 2 tablesopons of the extra virgin olive oil, and when it is shimmering, add the chopped onion with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden, at which point add the garlic, aleppo pepper and thyme. Cook another 2 minutes, stirring. Add the carrots and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Make a space in the center of the veggies, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and add half of the mushrooms. Let them cook, undisturbed, for about 4 minutes. Then stir them into the onion mixture. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and oil. Then stir the flour in. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes to cook the raw flour.
- Slowly pour the red wine/sun-dried tomato puree into the pot as you stir, being sure to absorb the flour into the liquid (much like making a béchamel). Add the beans with their cooking liquid. If the stew seems too thick or dry, you could also add a little water or stock, but mine did not need it. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and let gently boil for 5 minutes. Then reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
- Add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Taste for more vinegar, salt and pepper. If you have the Rosemary Salt from AllStar Organics, a little more here is nice, but don't stress if you do not have it. Anyone who wants their stew kickier should sprinkle some extra aleppo pepper over it. We loved this served over farro.
As always, affiliate links were used in this post, but only to link to items I would be discussing and linking to anyway.