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a.k.a. Fassüliah K’dra, these are soft and delicately savory saffron cannellini beans. This is a very simple recipe and the result appears quite plain, but it is in fact amazingly subtle and delicious. The white pepper adds just the right amount of spice. You can eat this plain in a bowl as you would any old bean stew, or add toppings to it like chopped tomato or yogurt or whatever strikes your fancy, or serve alongside a bunch of other salads and tasty bits.

Adapted from Mediterranean Street Food by Anissa Helou. Serves 6.

2 1/2 C. dried cannellini beans, soaked 8 hrs. or quick soaked for at least 3 in boiling water
A nice fat pinch of saffron
10 C. water
5 Tbsp. olive oil
3 medium or 2 large white onions, halved or quartered and sliced very thin (a mandoline is good for this)
1/4 C. flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 tsp. white pepper
Salt to taste

Put the drained beans and the water into a soup pot. Add the saffron, crushing it with your fingers first. Bring to a boil, add the oil, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

If pressure cooking, heat at maximum pressure for 6 minutes and then quick release; add the ingredients listed below and pressurize again for the same amount of time.

Stir in onions, parsley, and pepper, and cook for another 30 minutes or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste. You can adjust the consistency by cooking longer or adding more water.

There have been lots of black beans in my life as of late, where they find form as black bean burgers, black bean chili (my favorite recipe being from Deborah Madison’s Greens Cookbook), and those amazing flourless black bean brownies. Sometimes extra beans get thrown together with brown rice.

My new fave thing to do with beans is spreads. Here you can let some creativity loose and combine whatever ingredients you have on hand to make something cheap, versatile, and awesome. You can use black beans, of course, but any other bean will do. Each variety has its own particular, subtle flavor. Lima, Cannellini, Adzuki, Flageolet, fresh Favas — get to know your beans!

The recipe below is for a basic savory spread, and can be paired with bread, chip, or meaty item. What about a sweet bean spread, à la mochi, you say? I’ve yet to try it, but it could be good.  Chocolate beans?  Maple beans?  Fruity beans?

THE JIST:

2 cups beans, soaked (about 1 cup dry), canned, or leftovered
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. oil (sesame, olive, peanut — consider your other flavors when choosing)
1 tsp. salt

If using soaked beans: put them in a pot, cover with water about an inch above the surface of the beans, add a bay leaf and dash salt, and cook until soft, about an hour. Or use a pressure cooker, way faster.

Heat the oil and salt in a pan. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until translucent and tender. (You could get wild here and caramelize the onions, roast the garlic.) In a food processor, blend the beans until they are a smooth paste. Add the garlic and onion and purée.

ADD THINGS:

  • Fresh herbs
  • Horseradish
  • Roasted peppers
  • Hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, pepitas, pecans, walnuts, etc.
  • Chipotle or hot sauce
  • Miso
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Fresh ginger
  • Tomato paste
  • Curry paste
  • Soy sauce & sesame seeds
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Insert item from your pantry here

This will keep, sealed, for up to a week in the fridge.

So this is a very nice wintry soup to make, where the grilled flavor enriches the dish a great deal in my opinion. Also, miso is involved as a salting agent. I have thought about acquiring a little hibachi to fire up in the evenings — an activity one can do rather painlessly in this city during the present season — but in the meantime, a grill pan works quite well, and is what I used in this case.

You will need:
1 small head or 1/2 large head cabbage
1 medium-sized Japanese sweet potato
1/2 large onion
4 or more cloves of garlic
2 cups cooked beans
6 cups stock
Ghee or olive oil
Salt
2-3 tablespoons shiromiso (white miso)

Chop the cabbage in half and remove the core. Shred or slice as fine as you would like to eat with a soup spoon. Heat your grill pan, and once it is hot, apply the cabbage. Let it get browned and a little burned, moving it around every so often. Swap out batches of cabbage to get the whole quantity grilled. While you are doing this, mince the onion and smash the garlic. Peel the sweet potato and chop into cubes. I say cubes the size of sugar cubes, but you may say something else.

At this point, your cabbage will probably be done grilling and should be put to wait in a bowl. Scoop some ghee or pour some oil into your soup pot and let it get warm. Add a pinch of salt to the fat and stir. Add onion & garlic and saute until slightly translucent. Add the potatoes and stir a bit more. It’s fine if things get a little browned.

Pour in your stock and add your beans. I have used black beans and white beans and navy beans and each version has been equally delicious, though aesthetically different. (Same goes for cabbage varieties. Red? White? Napa?) I will say that there is a structural difference between canned and cooked dry beans; the latter tends to hold up better in soups, but you should not fuss over this.

Bring everything up to a simmering state and taste. Depending your stock, you may need more flavor. This is when you add the miso, spoonful by spoonful, until the flavor is to your liking. Now add the cabbage and cook until tender. Then ladle into bowls and eat.

This is a wonderful soup with crusty bread and butter on the side, then yogurt & jam for dessert. And tea. And then, naptime.

6 servings

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