Recently, a friend of mine alerted me to the presence at the farmers' market of fresh cannellini beans. I had to admit that I had never seen cannellini in their pods. I particularly like the contrast between the green pod (baccello) and the white beans (fagioli) it contains.
I visited the stall and bought a pound, but made no immediate decision regarding how to prepare the beans. Some sort of salad seemed like a reasonable plan, the idea being to let the flavor of the fresh beans take center stage. After shelling them, I cooked the beans in two cups of water with aromatics, as I usually do with dried and soaked beans: onion (about a quarter of a medium one, thickly sliced), a clove of garlic (also thickly sliced), a bay leaf, a few parsley stems, plus a pinch of salt. Once the beans were ready, I let them cool in their broth.
My original vague plan was sidetracked due to having found pomodori ciliegia1 (cherry tomatoes) at the market. It was late in the season (early November), so it was a surprise and one that lit up my husband's eyes. He has publicly declared that tomatoes are his favorite food. I have been in a cherry tomato roasting frenzy this season, an obsession that delighted him. I purchased a couple of pints to make my husband happy again, ahead of the long tomato-less months.
The tomatoes next to the beans in my market basket made me think of fagioli all'uccelletto, that classical Italian take on the pairing of tomatoes and beans. However, what I ended up making is more akin to a warm salad.
I oven-roast cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise, at 350 F for 45 minutes (check them after 40 minutes). Before roasting them, I toss them lightly with a bit of olive oil and some slivered fresh basil. I don't use salt, due to an old personal preference. I then arrange the tomatoes in one layer, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat and place in the oven.
Shortly before the tomatoes are ready, check the beans: if they are cold, warm them up a bit in their broth, so that there is not much difference between their temperature and that of the tomatoes hot out of the oven. Drain the warm beans (I reserve the liquid and add it to soups), add salt to taste and just a little bit of freshly ground pepper and mix. Distribute the tomatoes over the beans. Top with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano or try another cheese. The second time I prepared the beans, I grated some of my homemade blue-veined cheese and used that as topping: that is what you see in the photo (taken the day after I prepared the dish, so I could use natural light). Serve immediately, possibly accompanied with slices of homemade country-style bread (pane casereccio).
I really liked the flavor and texture of the cannellini, and I think that the pairing with tomatoes and cheese worked well. Now the question is: have you ever seen/purchased fresh cannellini?
This is my contribution to edition #260 of Weekend Herb Blogging, an event started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, now organized by Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once and hosted this week by the organizer herself to celebrate 5 years of WHB.
This post contains the roundup of the event.
1 In Italy, cherry tomatoes are also referred to as pomodorini ciliegia and pomodori ciliegini.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the cannellini freschi con pomodori ciliegia arrosto audio file [mp3].
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