the moveable feasts

Summer White Bean Ragout with Toasts

with 14 comments

summer white bean ragout with toasts

Well, I’m pleased to say that summer has finally hit Washington. By summer, I mean when you go to sleep without any sheets or blankets on, and when you wake up with the sun hitting you through the windows. When you have to spend the middle of the day in a swimsuit on the beach, and when turning on the oven is absolutely not an option (you’d be surprised how warm and inviting baking usually sounds most usual overcast and chilly Northwest summer mornings).

rough chop goes in the processor
post food processor

There’s a funny little thing about people in the Northwest with weather. They like to complain most of the year when it’s gloomy, overcast, and drizzly, yet when the sun finally shines and the heat is packed on, they complain it’s too hot. I guess they’re a hard crowd to please. I must have not been destined to be a Northwesterner (is that a word?), because I quite know what I like when it comes to the weather, and the sun is most definitely involved. I love walking outdoors and feeling the heat as if it were pounding on your bare arms, and wearing a swimsuit about 80% of the day. I’ll even take the whole no-oven thing. Besides, a lot of food is fine just as it is this time of year—not much messing around involved.

bubbling away

This dish here does require a little bit of work, as in you have to turn on the burner, and broiler. Also, the resulting dish, delicious though it is, does happen to be warm. Something to keep in mind if the weather is so hot that it’s more of a grilled-meat-and-fresh-salad kinda night. (Speaking of which, I have an awesome salad to share with you soon. Yes, be excited.)


Anyway, this dish is relaxed and a little bit lazy—just like how the days have been dripping by here lately. The original recipe requires soffritto, a flavor base built from simmering aromatics in lots of good olive oil for almost half an hour, which Bon Appetit tells me would form a foundation of flavor for whatever sauces or soups I would add it in. To me it just sounds a bit like homemade bouillon, but who am I to know? Reader, please enlighten me if you know more about this than I do. But, I made the soffritto anyway, set aside 1/2 cup for the bean ragout, and set the rest to freezer in ice-cube sized portions to be used to flavor some other things in the future. I must admit it was quite the scene to watch it bubble away in a pool of olive oil until it practically melted into a deep, darkened caramelized mush.

another above shot

After making the initial batch of soffritto, the rest of this dish came together easy, easy, easy. It’s basically the cheap-classic-simple dish of beans and toast, adjusted for the summer with the addition of some ripe cherry tomatoes. Don’t be deceived by its simplicity though: when you’re mopping up the sauce with the crusty, olive-oil drizzled bread, while getting as many plump beans and juicy tomatoes as can fit in one bite, the concepts of ease, or time, have no place. It’s just good. For how easy (especially if you’ve got that soffritto already stored away) and cheap it was, and considering how very, very good it ended up tasting, I’ll be making this throughout the year, with or without the tomatoes, and with or without the sun.

summer white bean ragout with toasts
soak up the juices

Summer White Bean Ragout with Toasts
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2012
Serves 4 to 6

Some quick things to note. The soffritto isn’t mandatory, but it does add a great depth of flavor. If you don’t want to go through the trouble (slight though it is) of making it, I’d saute some onions and garlic first before adding the beans. Or add some flavor from something like Better than Bouillon’s vegetable flavor base.

1 garlic, halved
4-6 1-inch thick slices ciabatta or good bread (preferably pre-grilled)
about 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup sofrito (see recipe below)
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
few tablespoons parsley, chopped, for garnish

Set the oven on its broiler setting, or, like me, set the broiler setting on a toaster oven. Rub bread slices with the cut sides of the garlic. Place bread on a baking sheet and cover with roughly a good tablespoon of the grated parmesan over each slice. Toast in the oven until the cheese browns a little, about a couple minutes.

Heat the sofrito and beans in a skillet (preferably the same one you cooked the sofrito in), over medium-high heat until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in the vegetable broth; bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to bring the mixture to a simmer. Continue to simmer, scraping up the the browned bits from the bottom of the pan every once in awhile, until liquid has thickened a bit, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and let simmer in the mixture for about 3 or 4 minutes more, or to your liking. Stir in a couple tablespoons of parmesan, and season well with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a piece of bread in a shallow bowl, or a plate with a little depth to it. Top with a good few spoonfuls of the bean-tomato mixture with its juices and broth. Garnish with a good drizzle of olive oil, some shavings of parmesan, and a sprinkle of parsley.

Onion, Bell Pepper, Tomato and Garlic Soffritto

2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 teaspoons tomato paste

Pulse onions in a food processor until finely chopped but not pureed. It should total about 2 cups. Transfer to a medium bowl. Next, pulse the bell pepper in the food processor until finely chopped, but not puree. This amount should total about 1 cup. Add to the bowl and mix well.

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Carefully add the onion-bell pepper mixture (it may splatter a bit), and season liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper. Simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are completely softened and caramelized looking, about a full 25 to 30 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, for about 3 more minutes until the mixture turns a deep, dark red-brown. Remove from heat. Measure 1/2 cup soffritto and set aside for the bean ragout. Transfer remaining soffritto to a container an let cool completely, uncovered. Cover and store in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze for up to a few months.

Written by Amy

August 7, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Posted in Vegetarian

Tagged with , , ,

14 Responses

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  1. I cook this kind of thing all the time – white beans are one of my all time favourite foods. I boil up a batch at the beginning of the week then turn them into salads, baked beans, topping for toast etc. This looks delicious and perfect for the summer :-)


    August 7, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    • I think I need to copy you and start making my beans from scratch! It sounds like it not only makes meals easier, but it makes planning for them/knowing what to know a lot easier too. And thanks!


      August 8, 2012 at 8:07 am

  2. I love anything piled on toast, and this bean ragout sounds perfect for summer. And I think I need to make a huge batch of soffrito, I sounds like preserved summer, and I think I’d be really happy to have it tucked away in winter.


    August 7, 2012 at 11:02 pm

  3. That soffritto is the definition of summer, to me. Love the whole ensemble.


    August 8, 2012 at 8:29 am

  4. Soffrito does add such an incredible depth to dishes. I love it so. You’re so right about people in the NW! So finicky! I’m a NWer as well, but I’m soaking up as much sun as I can before the clouds move in again.


    August 8, 2012 at 9:01 am

  5. I can see the summer light drenching these photos…just stunning. Those little white beans and cherry tomato halves aren’t too bad, either. This dish definitely looks like it’s worth the effort…bookmarked!

  6. I love simple meals like this. White beans and tomatoes are clearly a match made in heaven!


    August 8, 2012 at 10:16 am

  7. “deep, darkened caramelized mush” GIVE ME SOME! oh man, this sounds so good, and even though it’s warm and involves stoves and ovens, it is so deliciously summery. I’m looking forward to trying this. Northwesterners would get a long well with the Swiss, they could just sit and talk about the weather all day everyday together. People and the weather…too funny


    August 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm

  8. so weird that i got this tonight because i just cooked a batch of white beans and lentils.. so now i have yet another thing to do with them.


    August 8, 2012 at 9:20 pm

  9. Haha, San Franciscans definitely do not say no to the sun, mostly because summer comes after everyone else’s is over. And I love the white bean and tomato combo! Especially when there’s toasted-turned-soft-from-the-juices bread around.


    August 9, 2012 at 4:51 am

  10. Beautiful shots you got here Amy. I think everyone in New England complains about the weather too…the snowstorms and cold all winter…then the summer comes and it’s too hot. OK I guess I complain like that too. Can’t a girl hope for a 75 degree day? This looks delicious. I’m going to make it this weekend :) Looking forward to that salad recipe.


    August 9, 2012 at 8:40 am

  11. You and I are sooo opposite when it comes to warm weather. I live in Texas, where it’s super hot for most of the year, and I long for cool, overcast weather. Maybe we should swap? :D However, I’m totally on the same page with that beany business. It looks amazing!


    August 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm

  12. I’m going to feature the yummy image above in my foodporn daily post. Hope you don’t mind. I’ll link back here of course.


    August 16, 2012 at 1:07 am

  13. I made this for dinner tonight. Followed your recipe exactly, except added 1 small chopped zucchini with the tomatoes. It was SO DELICIOUS! This is going to be a regular on my menu! Thank you for this recipe.


    October 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm

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