Tuscan Beans

My favorite bean dish, using our large white “Aztec” beans, or borlottis.

This is my very favorite bean dish.  It works especially well with the large white “Aztec” beans that some of us grow on our plots, dried or fresh. It might be even more delicious with borlotti beans, if that is possible. It serves 2 or 3 people.

  • A cup of dried beans, or about 2 cups of fresh ones.
  • Half a cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Six fresh sage leaves, or a sprig of sage blossoms
  • A small dried chili pepper, crumbled
  • Four good cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Salt and black pepper
  • A 400g tin of tomatoes or about four fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped.

If you are using dried beans, soak them overnight and drain. Boil the beans until they are nice and tender. Drain them.

Get about half the oil hot and simmer the sage, chili, and garlic in it for a minute or two, then add the beans and fry them all together for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and simmer it all for about 30 minutes.  Top up with water if it gets too thick.

Season to taste, then pour the rest of the olive oil over the top and serve. Do not be tempted to skimp on the olive oil!

I like it with steamed brown rice, but my wife prefers it with mashed potatoes.  If you manage to have any left the next day, try Tuscan Beans on toast.  Sublime!

I found the original version of this recipe in a wonderful little book called The Goodness of Beans, Peas and Lentils by John Midgley. It is full of great things to do with beans.  Any of the recipes that use cannellini or haricot beans are even better with Aztec beans.

from Joe Foster

Courgette Soup

What to do with the courgette that got away? Courgette soup …

You come home from your summer holiday, and your zucchinis (courgettes to you) have nothing -ini or -ette about them. Look at that one – what is it? A courge? A zucchalone? A zeppelin? And what can you do with it? Here is a recipe from the late Ric Masten of California, poet, folk singer, lover of food and all around great human being. Joe Foster

THE CHEF
Slice and boil
the one that got away
the one that would play the lead
in THE SQUASH THAT ATE CHICAGO
the monster
that always has the crowd wild eyed
and screaming
My god! Is that really
A zucchini.
Strain off the water
Adding one bouillion cube (any kind)
and one tablespoon of olive oil
to every quart of cooked squash.
Puree and serve hot and steaming
with a slug of cold sour cream
dumped into the center of each portion.
Top with a sprinkle of dill seed,
salt and season to taste.

and now let us praise the chef
the only artist whose creative work
must speak to every sense

the literary labors of Shakespeare are immense
feeding and filling the soul
but a steady diet of language
leaves the stomach growling

and although it would garnish your life
and delight your eye
a garden salad by Picasso
would be as tasty as old canvas and varnish

and whatever the sculpture Rodin
might put out on the table
would be a masterpiece for sure
but nothing you could get your teeth into

no doubt
the sound of a string quartet is more uplifting
than the sizzle of bacon in a pan
but by intermission a sweaty musician
doesn’t smell as good

the fine art of cookery demands the heart
hand and eye of a complete renaissance man

and as always
muttering into her napkin counterpoint to this
my wife
why is it when a woman cooks a meal
it’s just a meal
but when a man cooks a meal
it’s such a big big deal

Ric Masten

Scarpaccia

A Tuscan zucchini pie without pastry …

(a Tuscan zucchini pie without pastry):

  • 1 or 11/2 lb young courgettes (use flowers as well)
  • 4 or 5 large spring onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 or 5 tbspns finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Batter made from
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 oz brown flour
    • 4 fl oz skim milk or milk + water
    • Butter and olive oil

Finely chop or slice courgettes and finely slice spring onions. Crush garlic. Beat the eggs, flour and milk to make a thin batter. Add vegetables and Parmesan, and season and mix well. Butter a large shallow oven proof dish and pour in the mixture. Don’t make it too deep – rather use two dishes. Drizzle over some olive oil and bake in a hot oven (gas 6/ electric 400) until set, lightly browned and risen slightly. Serve warm or cold.

From Gillian North