White Beans, Tuscan Style

MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

TIME: 1 to 2 hours, largely unattended

A rustic and almost indispensable bean dish one of my kids used to love it as an after-school snack that can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. Serve it with a salad and some crusty bread or toss it with a bit of cooked small pasta (like orecchiette) or greens (like cabbage), and you have a fantastic lunch or dinner. It reheats perfectly too; just add a bit of water if the beans are too dry.

Other beans you can use: gigantes, lima, fava, pinto, kidney, appaloosa, anastazi, black-eyed peas, green or brown lentils, or soybeans.

1 pound dried white beans cannellini, navy, Great Northern, or lima washed, picked over, and soaked if you like

20 fresh sage leaves or 1 tablespoon dried

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons minced garlic, or more to taste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste

Put the beans in a large pot with water to cover. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the sage and turn the heat down so the beans bubble steadily but not violently. Cover loosely.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans begin to soften; add a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the beans are very tender; add water if the beans dry out.

Drain the cooking liquid if necessary, then add the garlic. Taste and adjust the seasoning, stir in the olive oil, and serve.

Variations

Favas with Scallions. Replace the white beans with fava beans and delete the sage. Use 1/4 cup chopped scal-lion instead of or in addition to the garlic.

Chickpeas with Jalapeos. Substitute chickpeas for the white beans and a chopped onion for the sage. Add 2 tablespoons minced jalapeo with the garlic.

Pinto Beans with Red Bell Pepper. Cilantro stems, loaded with flavor, can withstand longer cooking than the more fragile leaves: Use pinto beans instead of white beans and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro stems instead of the sage. Add 1 cup sliced red bell pepper; cook it in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until soft, then add it with the garlic in Step 3. Proceed with the recipe and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.