Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Queen of Beans

On my last visit to the San Francisco farmer’s market at the Ferry Building I made sure to buy one thing. Okay I actually made sure to buy several things – Recchuiti Chocolates, McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil and hand lotion, whatever fruit pastry is in season at Frog Hollow and finally, beans. I don’t mean the amazing collection of heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo (although I guess they are on my must have list too) but the big white gigante beans from Iacopi farms. These beans are sold dried in ziplock bags. The beans are huge to begin with but when cooked they balloon into these enormous, creamy pockets of delight unlike any other bean I have eaten. I would love to serve a bowl to all my friends who are bean haters (this means you Melinda!) I can’t help myself from eating these right out of the pot when they are done. These are the queen of beans.
So I have been eyeing my bag of beans I purchased in May. What dish would be worthy? I pulled out a recipe I have been saving from Food and Wine "Fragrant Gigante Beans with Garlic Confit and Mussels" and finally decided to make it. Not only does it call for gigante or giant limas but it also calls for garlic confit, which is another of my favorite things, and mussels, an unusual combination. I made it last night to rave reviews.

I cooked the beans in the pressure cooker so that eliminated soaking. Pressure cookers are great for all sorts of things but wonderful for cooking beans. Since these were big and unsoaked I cooked them for 50 minutes. I have an electric pressure cooker so I can just set it and walk away. You can also soak them overnight and cook on the stove covered with fresh water until tender.

Garlic confit is easily made. Find every spare clove you have and throw it in a small pan and cover with your cheapest olive oil. I usually leave on the final skin of the clove and just trim off the root end. Simmer for 20 minutes or so until the cloves are so tender they yield like butter when pierced with a fork or knife tip. You want just the essence of a simmer when you cook these – an occasional bubble leaks out from under a clove. Feel free to only partially place the pan on the burner if you can’t get the heat low enough. The recipe makes as many or as few as you like but I always want to make extra to spread on bread or add to a cheese or antipasti plate. After cooking store the oil and garlic separately or throw out the oil if you are not going to use it in a couple days.

I followed the recipe for the most part. I substituted fresh parsley for the dill and chives called for at the end because that is what I had on hand. I served the feta table side and I was the only one who added it. The dish worked well both ways I thought so if you don’t have or like feta leave it out. Crusty bread is a must to accompany this dish, both for sopping up juices and eating the extra garlic confit.

The dish went together quickly once the beans were cooked. It could be served as a first course or an appetizer.


  1. Did I miss the recipe? I would love to read it!

  2. Judy - The link is in the article but here it is again. Fragrant Gigante Beans with Garlic Confit and Mussels -