Rosemary and mirepoix, a sautéed mix of onion, carrots and celery, are at the heart of rustic, delicious Tuscan beans. Two recipes below.
As much as possible, I try to be a “waste not, want not” kind of guy. So, having some nice rosemary left over from my last week’s Rosemary Apricots post done for Weekend Herb Blogging, I thought I’d make this simple, delicious side dish. Also being a “two birds, one stone” kind of guy, I decided to post this one on Weekend Herb Blogging too. This week, it’s hosted by the newly married Anna over at Morsels and Musings [best wishes, Anna!].
This recipe came together as much of my cooking does these days. I read a reference to Tuscan beans somewhere that made it sound like a flavorful, rustic side dish that would complement a host of main courses nicely—roasted chicken, chops, lamb shanks… But it only mentioned some of the ingredients and didn’t give a recipe. So I checked out Epicurious.com and Googled “tuscan beans.” That gave me a number of ideas for ingredients and variations, which I combined with an actual recipe for a simpler side dish I make using only white beans, rosemary, garlic and olive oil.
The simpler dish is a not bad side when you’re really pressed for time and want something interesting [see this recipe in Kitchen Notes]. This only slightly more involved dish can on occasion outshine the main course.
1 medium onion, diced or finely chopped [see Kitchen notes]
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 rib celery, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needles [see Kitchen notes]
1 15-1/2 ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed [see Kitchen notes]
1 large clove garlic, minced
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-low heat. Add olive oil, onion, carrot and celery to pan and “sweat” the vegetables for at least 15 minutes [longer if you have time], stirring frequently. The goal is to soften them, but keep them from browning. Reduce the heat, if necessary.
Gently stir in rosemary, beans and garlic and heat until warmed through, 3 to 5 minutes. If the beans seem too dry [they should have a gloss from the olive oil], drizzle more oil over the pan and gently stir it in. All this emphasis on using a gentle touch is because some canned white beans [most notably cannellini beans] can be fragile—with too much rough handling, overheating or even looking at them cross-eyed, the skins can begin to separate from the beans.
Remove from heat and stir in zest and lemon juice. May be served immediately or at room temperature. If serving at room temperature, place them in a serving dish to keep them from drying out. Stir once more just before serving to gloss the beans with the olive oil.
Onions, carrots and celery. This mix of vegetables is called mirepoix. Classically at a ratio of two parts onions to one part carrots, one part celery, it is the basis for many soups, stews and other dishes. This is the simplest form here. You can enhance it with herbs, butter, bacon or ham or other additions.
Rosemary and other variations. While fresh rosemary is best, you can also use dried. Use about half the amount and add it to the vegetables as you begin to sauté them—this will help it soften up. I also make this recipe with dried sage sometimes instead of rosemary, adding it as I sauté the vegetables.
Choosing the beans. I know that cannellini beans [large white kidney beans] are the classic Italian choice. I generally find them too fragile, too ready to break up and have the skins split, leaving an ugly mess. My favorite canned white beans are Great Northern beans. First, I like their slightly smaller size [but they’re not as small as Navy beans]. I also like that they’re a lot more forgiving and a lot less fragile.
This is a super quick side and a refreshing change from potatoes or rice. After a moment or two of simple prep work, you don’t cook it until the rest of the meal is almost ready.
White Beans with Rosemary and Garlic
Serves 2 to 3 [can be doubled]
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needles [or 1 tablespoon dried]
1 15-1/2 ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a sauté pan or large sauce pan and let stand on the stove while you prepare the rest of the meal. This will allow the flavors to swap around. Five minutes before the rest of the meal is ready to serve, heat over a medium-low to medium flame, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. Done!
SPECIAL NOTE: Be sure to check out the rest of the Weekend Herb Blogging at Morsels and Musings this coming Sunday.