In my quest to achieve a more minimalist lifestyle, I, a recovering cookbook collector, have purged myself of most of my beloved possessions. Thinning the herd was agonizing at first, but once the books were finally gone, I found I didn’t actually miss them all too much. Generally I find recipe inspiration online at fine sites such as this one, and when I do see a new cookbook that piques my interest, I request the book from my local library. If a new book is going to enter my permanent collection it needs to provide more than recipe inspiration; it needs to be authoritative, seeking to answer every question I’ve ever had about the subject, as well as answering the ones I haven’t thought to ask yet. The latest book to make the cut—carving out a permanent space for itself on a shelf beside The Joy of Cooking, The Food Lab, and the 1980 edition of The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook—is a new cookbook wholly dedicated to one of my favorite foods. It’s Cool Beans by Joe Yonan.
There is an excellent chance that I will make nearly every one of the 125 recipes in this cookbook, because as much as I love beans, I can get a bit lazy with them. A good bean recipe often finds itself living in comfort food territory, and it’s very hard to try something new when your fallback dish happens to be the stuff that dreams are made of. The majority of Cool Beans embraces the fact that beans are not very fussy, and as such, a recipe that showcases them at their best should not be fussy either. Case in point: this recipe for great northern beans with tons of golden, sweet garlic and bitter broccoli rabe over slabs of charred toast.
Though Yonan’s recipe calls for you to cook your own beans in advance of making the dish (and after doing a taste test of premium dried beans, I will most definitely be doing things the long way a lot more often), there is absolutely nothing stopping you from using canned beans instead, and using a good quality vegetable stock in place of reserved bean cooking liquid. This is the kind of dish I want for a weeknight when I’m too tired to cook and just looking to make dinner out of what scraps I have lying around: the scraps of stale bread leftover from Sunday dinner; the beans that are ever present in my pantry, the dark, bitter greens that always end up in my produce drawer after every supermarket trip. It’s dinner that’s healthier, faster, and cheaper than takeout, and kinda fancy in that “rustic chic” sorta way. And this is why Cool Beans has earned its place on my bookshelves: because not only does it make me smarter, but it’s the kind of book that I want to be deliciously lazy with for the rest of my life.
Reprinted from Cool Beans by Joe Yonan, courtesy of Ten Speed Press
My take on Heartland author and chef Lenny Russo’s wonderfully satisfying bowl of beans and bitter greens amps up the garlic and uses the rich bean cooking liquid instead of stock. I love serving these beans over toast to make it a meal.
- 2 cups dried great northern beans (may substitute navy, cannellini, or other white beans), soaked overnight and drained
- 1 onion, studded with 12 whole cloves
- 2 large carrots
- 1 (3-by-5-inch) strip kombu (dried seaweed)
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large bunch of broccoli rabe, cut into 1" pieces
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 6 thick slices rustic sourdough bread, lightly toasted
- 1 Tbsp. chile oil (optional)
- 1/4 cup vegan or traditional Parmesan, grated or shaved
Combine the beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add the onion, carrots, kombu, and bay leaves, turn the heat to medium-high, and bring the beans to a boil. Let then boil for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat so the beans are at a bare simmer, cover, and cook until the beans are very tender, about 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can cook the beans, water, and aromatic vegetables in a stovetop or electric pressure cooker: Bring to high pressure and cook for 17 minutes if using a stovetop model or 20 minutes for electric. Let the pressure release naturally, then open.)
Discard the onion, carrots, kombu, and bay leaves and strain the beans, reserving all of the cooking liquid.
In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Stir in the broccoli rabe and sauté until very tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it starts to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the drained beans, 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid, and the salt. Cook just until the beans are hot and the flavors have melded, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the pepper, taste, and add more salt if needed.
Divide the toast among shallow serving bowls. Drizzle with the chile oil, if desired, and spoon the bean mixture and broth on top. Finish with the Parm and serve hot.