Any time you have good beans, really good beans, it’s a reminder of how surprisingly delicious and satisfying the humble little legume can be. Achieving that “man, these beans are so good!” effect requires two things: sourcing flavorful beans and cooking them yourself. All beans are not created equal! If you can’t find any at a farmers market, Rancho Gordo is a fantastic source. We like using small beans for this, like cannellini or Jacob’s cattle.
We’re not going to give quantities here, but rather a general idea of how to throw these together. Celery’s optional, as is fennel and basil oil. These are lovely to have on hand (as a side for grilled chicken or fish; to toss into a green salad; to quickly warm and serve under a fried egg; or to top with fat slices of ripe tomato) even if they’re just packed with olive oil, shallots, garlic, acid and herbs.
Place beans in a pot with a bay leaf or two, a solid sprinkle of cumin and coriander seeds, a garlic clove or three and a good pinch of salt. Cover with 4-6 inches of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and let it simmer. Check the beans regularly to see how they’re coming along. When they’re ¾ of the way done, add a few good pinches of salt to the pot to up the seasoning a bit. When they’re perfectly done, tender but not falling apart, strain them (and save the liquid; it’s a fantastic and flavorful base for soup!). Pick out the bay leaves and garlic cloves and discard.
Toss the beans with a splash of the cooking liquid, olive oil, shallots, garlic, lemon zest and juice, red wine vinegar, more salt, and any or all of the other goodies (basil oil, celery stalks and leaves or fennel, herbs). Keep tasting and drizzling and adjusting as you go. You want these to be super savory, flavorful and olive oily. They’ll last for a week in the fridge.