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 (though we really recommend 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. They’re marvelous in a summery tartine of ripe tomatoes and stone fruit, as well.
Note: The recipe below calls for gigante beans, but feel free to sub any favorite bean (Rancho Gordo Yellow Indian Woman beans are a current obsession).
Place beans in a pot with the bay, ½ tablespoon of the cumin, 1 tablespoon of the coriander seeds, the four lightly crushed garlic cloves, 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, and stir every 10 minutes or so (to help ensure even cooking). 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 — ie 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.
Transfer to a large bowl and add a splash of cooking liquid, olive oil or basil oil, shaved shallots and garlic, lemon zest and juice, red wine vinegar, another pinch of sea salt (and any or all of the other goodies you may be adding — celery stalks and leaves or fennel, herbs). Stir well, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. You want these to be super savory, flavorful and olive oily. They’ll last for a week in the fridge.