by Lydia Whitlock — Dec 8th, 2016
This is a hearty and healthy winter dish -- think of it as a Mediterranean version of baked beans, seasoned with Vanns Herbes de Provence, but with a beautifully crispy bread crumb topping. It works well as a vegetarian main, served with something to soak up the sauce, or as a hearty side for a piece of simple roasted chicken or fish.
The first half of the recipe does take some time on the stove, but you can easily make the bean and tomato mixture ahead of time, and then throw it in the oven with its breadcrumb topping when you’re ready to enjoy it!
- ½ lb. small white beans, picked over and rinsed
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 Vanns Whole Clove
- 4 medium cloves garlic, 1 peeled and crushed with the blade of your knife, the rest peeled and minced
- 1 Vanns Bay Leaf
- 1-inch piece Parmesan rind (optional)
- 1 tsp. Vanns Thyme, divided
- Vanns Kosher Salt, to taste
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes and their juices
- ½ Tbs. tomato paste
- ⅛ tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanns Herbes de Provence
- ⅛ tsp. Vanns Cayenne
- Vanns Black Tellicherry Peppercorns, freshly ground, to taste
- ½ cup Gruyere, grated on the fine holes of a box grated (2 oz.)
- ¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs
- The night before you intend to make the gratin, cover the beans by 2 inches of water, stir in a pinch of kosher salt, and soak overnight.
- The following day, drain and rinse the beans and place them in a heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with water by 1 inch and set over medium heat. While the beans heat up, prepare the onion -- cut it in half from root to top, and then cut one of those halves in half again, so that the pieces are still held together by the root end. Stick the straight end of the whole clove into one of the small pieces of onion and add it to the beans, along with the whole peeled garlic clove, a pinch of kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. thyme, bay leaf, and the parmesan rind, if using. Dice the rest of the onion and reserve for later use.
- Bring the pot to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the top, and then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the beans are tender but not mushy, 30-60 minutes depending on the type of bean you’re using. Remove the pot from the heat and drain the beans over a bowl. Reserve 1 ½ cups of the cooking liquid and remove the onion, garlic clove, and bay leaf from the strained beans. Reserve the rest of the cooking liquid in the refrigerator to adjust consistency later if necessary.
- Place a large, heavy-bottomed dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat and add 1 Tbs. olive oil. When oil is hot, add the reserved chopped onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic cloves and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste, Herbes de Provence, remaining 1/2 tsp. thyme, and cayenne and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and sugar and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until tomatoes have softened. Add the beans and reserved 1 ½ cups bean cooking liquid and stir to combine.
- Bring the tomato-bean mixture to a boil, and then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for around 30 minutes, until the mixture is thickened and fragrant. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as desired.
- The recipe can be made up to this stage and refrigerated overnight. The mixture may thicken up in the refrigerator -- if that’s the case, use some more reserved bean liquid to return it to your desired consistency.
- About an hour before you’re ready to serve the dish, preheat the oven to 375°F. Oil an 8”x8” or similarly sized baking dish and pour the tomato-bean mixture into the dish. Stir the breadcrumbs, cheese, and remaining tablespoon olive oil together in a bowl, and add kosher salt to taste. Spread the breadcrumb mixture in an even layer over the tomato-bean mixture and bake for around 30 minutes, until the top is nicely browned and the beans are bubbling. If you’d like to brown the breadcrumbs even further, place the dish under the broiler for around 5 minutes, being careful not to burn it. Serve hot or warm, with pieces of crusty bread or polenta to soak up the sauce.
Serves 6. Adapted from The New York Times.
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