Brothy White Beans with Garlic

On a chilly winter night a bowl of creamy white beans is just the thing.  The white bean is a kitchen hero really.  It is a first rate understudy for any of the major players in the bean world, ready to take center stage and change up the flavors of your favorite kidney bean classics.

There are a few types of white beans readily available on market shelves in New England (at least):  Cannellini beans are popular in Italian dishes and are similar in size and shape to red kidney beans.  They are mild and creamy with an earthiness that is sometimes called nutty.  They can stand up to long cooking without losing their shape and are great in stews and soups.

Great Northern beans are a medium sized bean, smaller than cannellini’s and less creamy.  They will blend into a soup or stew with a long cooking time, so use these as an add in for soups and stews rather than something that simmers for hours unless you are using them to make the soup base thicker.

Navy beans aren’t navy at all.  These little white gems are the size of peas and are very versatile.  Most New Englanders enjoy navy beans with some frequency considering they are the primary component of most Boston baked bean recipes.  They have nice bite and hold up in long cooking.

It doesn’t really matter which white bean you choose to use because they’re all great.  I prepared organic cannellini beans by soaking them overnight and cooking them in the crockpot all day.  When I was ready for the little darlings they were tender and plump.  For our simple supper, I warmed some vegetable broth and added a clove of garlic that I sliced thinly.  Once the garlic was soft and the broth fragrant, about 20 minutes on low heat, I added in 1/2 cup of the warm white beans per serving.  I snipped some fresh rosemary into my bowl along with a few turns of the pepper grinder.  Easy.  Warm.  Wonderful.

The great joy of having a pot of cooked white beans comes in what to make next.  Tomorrow I will probably puree a cup or two with some garlic and tahini to make a white bean hummus.  After that, it’s easy to add a cup or two into a pot of soup or thicken things up into a white bean chili.

I didn’t take pics tonight, so the next time I make a pot of white beans I’ll just have to have you over.  With beans there is never an issue of not having enough.  They are healthy, available, easy to prepare and inexpensive.  Love them beans. 

So, my question to you is this:  Do you cook with beans?  If so, do you start from scratch or utilize the ever convenient canned beans?

This is the recipe that turned me on to white beans.

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