Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Heirloom Bean Gratin

Lonesome Whistle Farm at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market features heirloom dry beans such as these creamy white Arikara. If you are a real bean enthusiastic, you can sign up for the farm's Heirloom Dry Bean CSA and receive all of their 8 featured varieties through the winter. Read more here about efforts to increase production of beans and grains in the Willamette Valley.

These Arikaras, along with farm's delicious looking tomatoes and onions, were the basis for a cassoulet-inspired bean gratin. 

It's a good idea to soak the beans overnight to plump them up. I sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil until they began to caramelize. Then I added hot vegetable broth in which I'd soaked some sun-dried tomatoes, and the soaked beans. The softened dried tomatoes I diced and added to the pot. I let these simmer uncovered in a low temperature over for a good hour, until the beans were tender and the broth absorbed. 

Meanwhile I mixed together a topping of panko (dried bread crumbs), diced cherry tomatoes, basil, chives, and grated pecorino romano cheese.

I sprinkled this over the beans and cooked the pot under the broiler until the bread crumbs were browned and fragrant. The fresh tomato and basil bread crust was a nice contrast to the creamy, sun-dried tomato flavored beans.  These made a hearty dinner, accompanied by a big green salad and nice loaf of bread.

Arikara bean and tomato gratin

For the beans
1 lb Arikara dried beans or some other variety of white beans
3 small red onions, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 halves sun-dried tomatoes (dried, not packed in oil)
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
generous amount of salt

For the topping
1/2 cup panko or bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
6 cherry tomatoes, chopped
6 basil leaves, chopped
6 chives, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil

1. Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water.

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Heat vegetable broth and add sun-dried tomatoes to soak. When tomatoes are soft (after about 20 minutes), dice them.

3. In a deep, oven proof pan, saute onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until the onions are very soft and have started to caramelize. 

4. Add broth and sun-dried tomatoes to the pot. Drain the beans and add these to the pot. When they come up to a simmer, transfer the pot, uncovered, to the oven.  Cook for about an hour, checking occasionally to test the beans for tenderness and to make sure that there is still enough liquid in the pot.

5. When the beans are desired tenderness, check for seasoning and add salt and more pepper to taste. Mix together the bread crumb topping and sprinkle over the beans. Place the pot under the broiler and cook for about 5 minutes longer until the topping is golden brown.

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