Friday, 31 January 2014

Big, Beautiful Baked Beans

Fagioli "Grande di Spagna" & Verdure Miste Gratinate
White Beans & Mixed Vegetable Gratin

Something healthy, something hearty, something yummy, inexpensive, quick and easy... and no, I am not talking about 6 different meals, I am only talking about this one, right here! But as it happens, if did consist of 6 main, but very simple and everyday ingredients- and if you stick around for just a minute or two I will let you know how I transformed them into a terrific supper this evening ;-)

The beans were those lovely, huge, white, Spanish or Greek ones, from a can, with no guilt and no work... when it comes to beans and chickpeas- if you live alone... is it REALLY work soaking that single handful you are going to eat overnight? I mean, soaking something that is dried is not going to make it any more fresh than those coming out of the can. If you are using fresh beans- fine. If not, I leave the choice up to you. Me? I crack open a can ;-)

The other ingredients this evening were a nice, little, juicy kohlrabi, which smiled at me from the shelf at the supermarket on my way home from work, a stick of celery, half a carrot, an onion and a few cherry tomatoes. Apart from that, some fresh thyme, a little grated pecorino and a handful of bread crumbs for a little extra crunch. That doesn't sound much... and in fact, it isn't all that much- but at the same time is was more than enough to fill me up and to do so in a most wonderful way- like only yummy comfort food can.

I started by chopping the carrot, celery and onion nice and small and by cutting the kohlrabi into sticks. Nice, little bite-size pieces that went nicely with the size of the large, oversized beans. And I started the whole thing off by a.) turning on the oven to get it nice and warm and b.) popping the carrot, celery, kohlrabi and onion into a frying pan. I added just enough boiling water to cover the base, seasoned with salt and popped on the lid, and let them steam for 4-5 minutes.

After 5 minutes or so, the water had almost completely evaporated away, and at this point I added 3-4 sprigs of thyme, plucked from the stem, pepper, nutmeg and olive oil and 5-6 cherry tomatoes which I cut in half.

I stirred everything through, let the vegetables sizzle away for a while and in the meantime, grated a nice handful of Pecorino and mixed it together with a handful of bread crumbs, to sprinkle on top of the mixed vegetables. This is simple stuff but also good fun and you can always vary the ingredients according to your own preference or what is in season where you happen to live.

Making sure to not over-cook the ingredients, after 10 minutes or so, I transfered them, piping hot, to a baking dish. I sprinkled everything with a light coat of crumb and cheese, seasoned once again with salt and pepper and a light drizzle of olive oil- especially on the bread crumbs, so that they would have a chance to become nice a crunchy and brown...

Into the oven it went, at around 300°F, for around 15-20 minutes, or until the crumbs and the cheese were nicely toasted and brown. I told you this was easy stuff! But as you can see, the fact that it was simple to make, didn't mean that it wasn't wonderful to eat! It was all of that and so much more!

Sweet, juicy and rich vegetables along with mild and satisfying beans, with a kick from the fresh thyme and the crunch of the cheese and crumbs- now I would say that, THAT was a lot of good stuff going on all in that one, simple meal!

If you are easy to please, this makes for a great little meal in itself, but if you at some time need a nice side dish to go with a Winter meat, poultry or fish dish- you have everything you need, all wrapped up in 1 baking dish! Give it and try and see for yourselves! And enjoy!

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