I can think of no other food that radiates humble, simple elegance like the bean. Beans are easy to cook, fit into most dietary lifestyles, and are seasonless-- they make a hearty wintertime stew or a chilled summery salad with equal aplomb.
Last week I cooked up one pound of Rancho GordoAlubia Blanca beans, and made a little game of seeing what I could do with them throughout the week that wouldn't grow wearisome. The pasta with beans and mushrooms, lemony asparagus-bean salad, and brothy beans-and-greens bowl were each distinct, and each a success.
The true miracle of it is that only four ounces of meat were used to season just one of the dishes, and yet meat was not missed. Beans are tasty, protein-rich, loaded with fiber, and when used with other flavorful ingredients are totally satisfying.
This post includes the recipe for the pasta, bean, and mushroom dish. Recipes for the other two dishes will come in quick succession in separate posts. An Ode to the Bean trilogy, if you will.
In the third post, we'll address the elephant in the room-- the Magical Fruit Effect.
Why go to the trouble of cooking dried beans?
Let's talk about the advantage of using dried beans rather than canned, not that there's anything wrong with that! The texture of beans cooked from scratch is more toothsome, less waterlogged, and texturally more interesting. There are nearly infinite varieties of dried beans, each having their own unique flavor, too. Some are clean with an almost mineral slate-like flavor (the Alubia Blanca is an example), some are slightly smoky flavored, some are nutty, and some are meaty.
Some beans are tiny and others are huge. Think of beans like you think of all the different pasta shapes-- each one holds a special charm depending on what it is you want to prepare or serve them with.
A pound of beans cooks up into ten full-sized servings-- likely more when used with other ingredients-- making them a definite proletariat choice.
In their brilliant display of versatility, beans eagerly accept the flavors of the ingredients they are put with. The humble bean grows in most climates, and people from most cultures use beans in some way in their cooking. There's just so much to love about the unassuming bean.
It's hard to be bored when you have a world of beans to explore.
Grower's + Makers Wine Notes:
With the Pasta, Bean, and Mushrooms dish we served RoxyAnn Winery2017 Claret. This Bordeaux-style blend, grown in warm Southern Oregon, is rich and soft and great with these mushrooms. It's a good value, too.
There are so many fantastic things to do with a pot of freshly cooked beans, and this is one of them! Humble and unintentionally vegan, full of herbs and earthy mushroom and bean flavor, chewy pasta, and loaded with energy-giving protein, it's a dish fit for a queen.
½poundpasta, your choiceorecchiette is nice- it holds the little beans!
1poundmushrooms, any kind (these are chestnut mushrooms)
1shallot, finely diced
2 Tablespoonschopped fresh oregano
2 Tablespoonschopped chives
2 Tablespoonschopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cupbean cooking liquid, or reserved pasta water
1teaspoonsalt, plus more for pasta water
1lemon, zested and squeezed
ground black pepper to taste
Put a pot of water with a palmful of salt (about 3 Tablespoons) on to boil. Boil pasta according to package directions until almost al dente. (It will finish cooking later.) If you don't have any reserved bean cooking liquid, reserve a cup of the cooking water and drain. Set the pasta and pasta water aside.
While the water comes to a boil, clean and trim the mushrooms. If using button mushrooms cut them into quarters. Zest the lemon and squeeze it of its juice. Set them aside.
Mix together the chopped oregano, chives, and parsley and set them aside on your cutting board.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, mushrooms, shallot, and ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cook, leaving the mushrooms in place to brown a bit before stirring. Repeat, leaving the mushrooms undisturbed for a few minutes before stirring until they are cooked through and have a slight browned color. Adjust your temperature if the shallots are browning too quickly. Remove about ½ of the mushrooms from the pan and reserve for serving.
To the mushrooms in the skillet add the beans, pasta, and bean cooking liquid or pasta water, scraping up any mushroom juices. Stir, and season with remaining salt and pepper. Stir in about half the mixed herbs and the lemon juice. Allow the cooking liquid to reduce about ½, leaving some moisture in the pan.
Spoon the pasta, beans and mushrooms into a a large serving bowl or individual bowls. Spoon any pan juices over the top. Place the reserved mushrooms on top, along with a healthy sprinkling of fresh herbs and lemon zest.
Make It Your Own:There is no shame in using canned beans- I keep them in my pantry at all times for quick and easy meals. The beans will be mushier, so handle them a little more gently.Experiment with different types of beans, different pasta shapes, whatever mushrooms are seasonal, and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. If you don't have a lemon on hand, add 2 or 3 teaspoons white or red wine vinegar instead.
You’re in the right place! I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.
Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.
Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.
Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.