It’s snowy and blustery in the mountains today (and yesterday and the day before). Spring is really playing hard to get. I read cookbooks like most people read novels, so I curled up by the fire to read Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now and came across a recipe that is perfect for warming up a snowy day.
If you’ve read my posts about our January 2013 trip to Italy, you already know that I became enamored of a bean and farro soup served in northern Tuscany. This stew has the same flavors, is easy to put together and so satisfying. It’s guest worthy too!
I’ve adapted the recipe slightly from Melissa’s book. One change was essential. I am a southerner. Melissa, who is not, recommends discarding any extra bean liquid removed at the end of cooking. My grandmother is turning over in her grave as I type this. Southerners do not discard bean liquid (or as we call it, pot likker or pot liquor). In fact my husband and I each had a small bowl of this particular broth with a squeeze of lemon and it was magnificent!
But I am a big fan of Melissa’s and will cut her some slack since she was raised elsewhere. Check out her book and her website where you’ll find tons of good recipes. http://www.melissaclark.net/
- 1 pound dried cannellini beans
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive and more for drizzling
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 celery stalk, cut in half crosswise (save the leaves for garnishing)
- I large onion, halved lengthwise from root to stem so it holds together
- 1 whole clove (stick it in the onion half)
- 2 rosemary sprig
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- Piece of Parmesan rind (optional, but really delicious)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt, more to taste
- 1 cup farro, rinsed
- flaky salt (Maldon or fleur de sel) for sprinkling
- red pepper flakes to taste
- chopped celery or parsley leaves for garnish
- lemon juice and/or grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)
- Soak the beans overnight in cold water, or add cold water and beans to a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let the beans soak for two hours. Both methods will greatly reduce cooking time of dried beans.
- When ready to cook, drain the beans and place along with the olive oil, 4 of the garlic cloves, the celery and onion in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bundle the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf together, tie with kitchen twine, and add to the pot (if you use the herbs without tying, remember to fish them out later). Add the Parmesan rind, if using. Cover everything with water and stir in the salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer from 1 to three hours, depending on how long you soaked the beans. A test of doneness is to place a bean in your hand and blow on it. If the skin breaks, it’s ready. Try a few from different places in the pot just to make sure they are all done.
- If the water level in the pot sinks below the top of the beans during cooking, add more water as needed. At the end of cooking, the water should not quite cover the beans. If there’s too much liquid at the end, remove and set aside to serve as a first course or use as a soup base tomorrow.
- While the beans are cooking, prepare the farro. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the farro, pasta style, until softened. This can take 20 minutes to and hour depending on what kind of farro you use. When it is nicely chewy, drain well.
- Mince the remaining two garlic cloves.
- When the beans are cooked, remove and discard the onion, celery, hers, and Parmesan rind. The garlic can be served with the beans. Stir in the minced raw garlic and use an immersion blender to puree 1/3 to 1/2 of the beans. You can also puree them in a blender or food processor but that’s a lot more work! For a thinner broth, stir in the garlic and skip the puree step.
- Serve the beans in bowls over the farro. Drizzle each portion with plenty of olive oil, sprinkle with salt (flaky or otherwise), red pepper flakes and celery or parsley leaves. Stir in a bit of lemon juice if desired to heighten the flavors and sprinkle with grated Parmesan if desired. Make sure you don’t skimp on the oil, salt and red pepper flakes when serving. These flavors make the whole thing come together.