Some dishes are appropriate year round.  And in that camp, I would include beans.  Beans are one of the best plant sources of protein on the planet, not to mention low on the calorie index.  They are super high in fiber, which is great for reducing cholesterol and regulating blood sugar.  And…they are loaded with antioxidants, in some cases more than blueberries!

Beans are also quite versatile.  They can be mixed into soups or grain salads (like garbanzos with farro), creamed and spread onto baguettes (as in cannellini or fava), or added to fish tacos (black is best.)  Here in Napa we are blessed to have Rancho Gordo offer heirloom varieties retail, also available for shipping.  It’s always best to buy your beans from a known source – you’d be amazed how it can affect cooking time AND flavor.

White Beans with Pancetta, Zucchini and Sage – Serves 4

It’s best to pre-soak your beans overnight.  This will reduce gas on the stove (as in cooking time), and gas in your body (as in, uh huh.)  There is some debate on whether or not to save the water you have soaked them in. I opt not, since we have just leached out the very molecules that ‘turn up the music.’ BUT, I do save the cooking water, as up to 35% of the nutrients are there.
Cooking times vary depending on a.) the soak, and b.) the type of bean.  I usually use classic cannellini for this dish, but tried one of Steve’s new varieties called “Rice Beans.”
Because they are a bit smaller, they took about 2 hours to cook. Make sure to salt them after they’re done – as doing so beforehand will make them tough.

2 cups dried white beans, pre-soaked and drained
2 ounces pancetta* (I saved about 1/3 for crispy garnish)
4-6 large fresh sage leaves, 4 chopped, 4 for garnish
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
3 TB olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium zucchini, julienned
Salt and pepper

Place all ingredients except zucchini in large pot and cover with approximately 6 cups pure water. (You might need to add more later.)  Cook on high simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to bottom.
Meantime, cook up remaining pancetta in skillet until crispy and break up into small pieces.
Take strands of zucchini and place into pot with warm beans. Let them wilt for about 3 minutes.

To serve, drizzle with a bit more olive oil and top with crispy pancetta and sprig of sage.

*Pancetta is an Italian-type of uncured bacon.  If you are vegetarian, simply omit.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.


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