I made this beautiful pot of white bean stew a while back and shared the photo on Facebook. I wanted to share this recipe on my blog for other reasons as well. First of all, the recipe is from one of my favorite cookbook authors, Melissa Clark. Secondly, I used white beans straight from Italy (sigh).
From Clark's latest cookbook, Cook This Now (serves 6):
1 pound dried cannellini beans
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 celery stalk, cut in half crosswise (reserve celery leaves for garnishing)
1 large onion, halved lengthwise from root to stem to it holds together
1 whole clove (stick it in the onion half)
2 rosemary springs
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Piece of Parmesan rind, if you like**
2 1/2 t. kosher or coarse sea salt, more to taste
1 c. farro, rinsed
Flaky salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel
1/4 t. Turkish or Syrian red pepper such as Urfa, Maras or Aleppo
Chopped celery or parsley leaves for garnish (optional)
Lemon juice and/or grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
1. If you have the time and would like to soak your beans ahead, this will shorten your cooking time. Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with several inches of water. Let soak for as long as you can. Overnight is optimal but even a few hours will hasten the cooking.
2. When ready to cook, drain the beans and place them along with the oil, 3 of the garlic cloves, the celery, and the onion in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bundle the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf together, tie securely with kitchen twine, and throw into the pot (or just throw the untied herbs into the pot, though you will have to fish them out later.) Add the Parmesan rind, if using. Cover everything with water and stir in the salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and allow it to simmer, partially covered, until the beans are soft. This can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, depending upon how long (if at all) you soaked your beans and how old your dried beans were when you got them.
3. Meanwhile, while the beans are cooking, prepare the farro. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the farro, pasta style, until softened. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending upon what kind you use. Drain well.
4. Mince the remaining 2 garlic cloves.
5. When the beans are cooked, remove and discard the onion, celery, herbs, and Parmesan rind if you used it. Ladle half of the beans into a food processor or blender; add the minced raw garlic, and puree. Return the bean puree to the pot.
6. Serve the beans in bowls over the farro, drizzle each portion with plenty of olive oil, then sprinkle with good flaky salt, red pepper, and celery leaves or parsley. If the stew tastes a bit flat, swirl in some lemon juice at the end to perk up the flavors. Grated Parmesan cheese on top is also nice.
One of the reasons that I love Melissa Clark's cookbooks is that she incorporates many options for each recipe. Don't have or don't like farro? She suggests wheat berries or couscous. Need some advice since you haven't really used dried beans before? She provides practical and unintimidating advice for you.
**I found a small package of wrapped Parmesan rinds at my local Whole Foods Market for just $2.00.
Here is my finished stew. I practically licked the bowl clean!