Beans by way of introductions.

by kaitlin

Chipotle White Bean Casserole

I never thought that I was the type of eater who would eat the same thing for days on end, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I don’t think I was ever provided the chance when I was growing up, and frankly, I genuinely like to cook too much to allow myself to go very long without making something new. However, the one bad habit that I do have is making a full portion of things- to serve 4 or 6 or 8- when there are only two people in the house. Sometimes we end up eating more than our fair share (Hello, chicken pad sew), and sometimes I take the leftovers for lunch. But, sometimes there are dishes (like this one, of course, which is why I’m giving you this back story) that have so many portions that it requires eating it for days. It reaches the fine line for ‘an inordinate amount of food’*

In this case, this dish served for a dinner, three lunches, and one breakfast. Far from inordinate, but slowly reaching the point where I might be craving something new later this week. Maybe.

The basis of this recipe is derived from Heidi Swanson, of 101 Cookbooks. She forever surprises me with how tasty you can make ‘healthy’ food. In which she takes crazy grains that I would never think to buy, and makes them into delicate and delicious pastries. She makes legumes sound and taste more interesting than meat. I think if I were to ever attempt vegetarianism, Heidi’s books would be my crutches. (On the other hand, I recently got my hands on a copy of The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, which is grounded in Quebecois food culture. I have no plans to stop eating meat.)

The incomparable Kelly brought her take on this dish to our supper club. I don’t think it was the most broadly loved dish in the room, but for me, it was the most deeply loved. These beans are everything that I love about Latin cuisine – spicy, and warm, and toasty, with the chipotle sauce, but also far from heavy, with a cilantro pesto that makes them sing. (I know, there are metaphors about beans and song. Sorry.) If you’re not one for cilantro, you could make a pesto of parsley/olive oil/garlic/lemon, just the same. As Heidi rightly points out, even though there are a lot of components, you can do much of the work ahead of time, or in stages, before completing it in the oven.

Chipotle White Beans
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 pound of large, dried white beans, prepped using the quick-cook method.

After cooking them to tender, salt them well and let them sit for about ten minutes, before draining. Proceed with the rest of the recipe:

Chipotle-Tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 big pinches of red pepper flakes
2 pinches of salt
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers

Place the olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, and chopped garlic into a cold medium saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute until fragrant – you don’t want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and heat to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the adobo sauce. Taste. If the sauce needs more salt add it now, more chipotle flavor? Now is the time. Set aside.

Cilantro Pesto:
1 medium clove of garlic
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
a small handful of toasted pepitas or shelled pumpkin seeds (optional)
Salt, to taste

Combine the garlic, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds in a food processor. Pulse while you drizzle in the olive oil. Season with a bit of salt and set aside.

2/3 cup feta or goat cheese
1 cup cubed, whole-grain bread, toasted in a skillet with a tablespoon of butter.

Heat the oven to 425F degrees. In a 9×13 casserole or dutch oven, toss the beans with the tomato sauce. Top with the cheese, cilantro pesto and bread cubes and bake in the top-third of the oven for roughly thirty minutes -when the cheese gets bubbly and a little bit brown. Let it stand for 10 minutes before serving – you don’t want to burn your tongue.

*When we hosted a New Year’s Eve party, I asked people to RSVP so as to keep us from having an inordinate amount of food. When a friend asked for a definition, I provided: “An inordinate amount of food is the amount at which you cannot finish the leftovers before it spoils.”

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