This post is a bit overdue, but I’d like to think of it as a kind (and tasty) reminder to those of you who have yet to purchase The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook. Sara and Hugh, curators of The Sprouted Kitchen blog, are of no doubt familiar to you. I started reading their blog soon after they started and it has since remained a favorite. Sara’s approach to cooking is similar to mine, in that seasonal whole foods are pushed to the forefront and that keeping things simple and beautiful is all it takes to get people in the kitchen cooking and great food on the table.
I have so many recipes marked to try and a handful of ones I’ve already made; and not one has disappointed me yet. I decided to share this recipe from their book, not just because the thought of creamy braised beans and leeks sounded perfect for the gray and rainy weekend we had, and definitely not because I thought it was going to be easy to photograph (beans are tough!), but because of the story that came with the recipe. Sara’s inspiration comes from Italy, where the lady she worked for had a simple recipe for a pot of beans and leeks that everyone asked for. When the lady was asked what was in the famous dish her response was “it’s just leeks and beans!” This last part, that’s what had me hooked. It reminded me so much of my grandma and something I think I inherited as well.
This is what I love so much about this book. It’s not just a cookbook, it’s so much more. Sara has made a point to invite the reader in, much in the style of her blog. She makes you feel welcomed, whether you’re a foodie or just someone who loves to eat. Her recipes are simple enough for everyday, but she manages to keep it all so flavorful that you wouldn’t even think twice to serve it to guests. All of that, accompanied by her incredibly talented husband who photographed the entire book, makes this a must on my kitchen bookshelf and I can see myself reaching for it for many years to come. And has me waiting for another, just sayin’ Sara : )
Braised White Beans & Leeks / serves 6-8
Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods
I’ve written the recipe as in the book placing the changes I made for what I had on hand in parenthesis. This is just as good heated up and served for several days afterward, which I love.
1 pound dried white runner beans or cannellini beans, rinsed and picked over (I used navy beans)
3 large leeks
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 celery stalks, diced
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence (made my own mix of about 1/2 teaspoon each rosemary, fennel, savory, marjoram, basil, and thyme)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup shredded mozzarella (had to exclude this at the last minuted because I thought I had mozzarella but didn’t. I added a bit more Parmesan to make up for it)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Soak the beans, uncovered, in a large bowl of cold water for at least 4 hours, or up to overnight. Drain and set aside.
Arrange a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 225F.
Trim the leeks discarding the tough green tops, halve vertically, and rinse in cold water, making sure to clean out any dirt trapped between the layers. Slice into thin half circles. In a Dutch oven or ovenproof casserole over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the celery, garlic, and leeks and cook until the vegetables are softened, 3-5 minutes.
Add the beans, thyme, herbs de Provence, red pepper flakes to taste, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a generous amount of black pepper. Stir in the vegetables broth and 1/2 cup water and bring the mixture back up to a gentle boil. Cover the pot with an ovenproof lid or cover tightly with foil. Place in the oven and cook, checking occasionally to make sure the pot is never dry, until the beans are soft throughout but not falling apart, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. If the pot seems dry, add water in 1/2 cup increments and stir once or twice. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary.
Remove the pot from the oven and turn the temperature to 500F. Sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan on top of the bean mixture and put the pot back in the oven, leaving the lid off. Cook until the cheese is completely melted and brown in spots, 8-10 minutes. Serve hot.