How to Cook Flavorful White Beans
The problem with white beans is that they tend to be so bland. It’s one thing if you’re just tossing some in a soup for extra protein, but it’s another if they will be the feature of a meal. For instance, in a dip or as a spread, on a gluten-free pizza, in a pasta or roasted vegetable dish, or on a salad.
When I make white beans this way (see below) they are so flavorful I find myself eating them straight out of the pan, or spooning bites of the freshly made puree. I use leftovers for an easy lunch bowl with rice, or put the puree on sandwiches for my husband, and I love to fry them in coconut and olive oil with salt until crispy to go with roasted vegetables or on a salad.
Also, try white bean puree in place of ricotta for a gluten-free AND vegan lasagna. (It’s not going to fool anyone that it’s ricotta, but it’s still quite tasty.) Plus, using white beans is a great way for vegetarians/vegans to add a little extra protein to Italian or Mediterranean-style meals that tend to be so heavy on the carbs.
And these white beans are scrumptious.
Check out my general post on cooking beans here for tips on making any type of bean come out great every time (with great taste and little or no gas).
Oh, and a little tip for peeling whole garlic cloves: Lay the clove on a cutting board. Put the flat side on a broad knife on top of it. Pound once or twice with your fist. Enough to loosen the skin and maybe partially crack the clove, but not smash it entirely. Remove the skin.
If you don’t like your fingers to smell like garlic (or onion, for that matter), squeeze some fresh lemon juice on your fingers/hands, rub in, and rinse off. It gets rid of the garlic smell every time!
How to Cook Flavorful White Beans
Dry white beans
2-3 cloves garlic- whole and peeled
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (about 6 inches long)
4-5 springs fresh thyme
2-3 large bay leaves (or more small leaves)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or more)
Red pepper flakes (optional- 1 tsp to 1 T depending on how much you enjoy spice)
*3 wedges salted lemon rinds (if you've got 'em)
1 tablespoon salt (or more)
Please refer to my guide to cooking beans for general information if you aren’t familiar with how to cook beans or if you want to know how to reduce the gas effects of any type of bean.
White beans will about double in size when soaked and cooked, so factor that in when deciding how much to prepare. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for about a week. They also freeze well.
If the type of white bean you choose to cook loses its skins when you soak them, give a little extra help when you rinse the beans (before cooking) by agitating them with your hands to get as many of the skins off as possible (without going crazy). It's just a few extra rinses and it will improve the texture of the final product.
Not all white beans do this, so if you don't see large numbers of skins on the surface of the water after soaking, don't worry about this step.
After soaking and rinsing, bring the beans to a boil in fresh water with the vinegar and garlic cloves. Don’t forget to scoop the foam off the top just as it starts to boil. Then add the herbs (toss them in whole) and spices. Do not add any salt or olive oil yet.
Set to a low boil.
Cook until very tender. Between 1 hr 15min and 2 hours, depending on the type of white beans you are using. If the water level drops below the beans, add more, but be sure to boil it first and add it hot to the pot (in order to keep the cooking going).
You can add the salt anywhere from the last half hour of cooking to when they are done. When the beans are very tender, turn off the heat and add a good glug of olive oil.
Pick out the bay leaves and stems from the herbs.
Test the flavor and add more salt to taste. If your beans still taste ‘blah’ then they need more salt. Really. A big pot of beans can need up to 2 tablespoons of salt for the flavor to ‘pop’ (and still not taste outright salty).
Use immediately or cool and store in the refrigerator for later.
As always, click here to ask questions or leave a comment at the original blog post.