Tuscan beans on grilled bread
Beans are part of a simple way of cooking that is often referred to as “peasant cooking”, “Cucina povera”, “Cocina para pobres” or “l’alimentation paysanne”, in the few languages that I can understand. Even the fancy Scandinavian smørrebrød has its origin as simple bread topped with whatever was readily available for populations that did not have many options.
Local and inexpensive ingredients such as grains, legumes, noodles and breads together with a few available vegetables like potatoes, yams and corn sustained civilizations for thousands of years, aided by creativity and hard work of cooks working over wood fire with very basic cooking tools.
I love simplicity in foods, preferring dishes that are not handled too much to those that have been touched by many hands before reaching my plate garnished and arranged to perfection. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the beautiful foods artistically plated at high end establishment and sometime seek them out, but it’s not the comfort food I crave when I want something good to eat. At home I like simplicity.
Bean dishes, whether soups, stews or salads, are a favourite peasant style food that I love to make especially in the winter when I want hearty, soul satisfying food. This simple preparation meets all these criteria: it’s a one pot dish with minimum ingredients that I serve over a grilled piece of rustic bread and “c’est tout”, or that’s it.
Italian cook their beans with sage leaves, others cultures with their own local herbs and spices. In this recipe I cooked the beans with olive oil, garlic and thyme until they are tender, and then spooned them over a piece of bread that I brushed with oil and grilled. It makes a perfect lunch or light dinner.
I hope you enjoy.
2 cups white cannellini beans or another variety.
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
A handful of fresh thyme leaves or a few stems of thyme with leaves on (they will fall off as they cook)
8 cup water, more as needed (can use some stock)
Salt and pepper
Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water, then drain.
Heat the oil in a large pot, I prefer le creuset enamelled caste iron.
Add the onion and cook until translucent.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add the beans and stir to coat them with the oil.
Add the water and bring to a boil.
Lower heat and cook at a gentle simmer until the beans are cooked through.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
The beans should have just enough liquid in them so they are not dry. You can adjust the liquid level during cooking. Depending how dry your beans are, they may need more or less liquid.
Slice a country style bread into not too thin slices.
Grill until golden.
Brush with olive oil and rub with a cut half of a garlic clove.
Place the bread in a wide bowl, spoon the beans over, garnish with greens.
Drizzle with good olive oil.