Sunday, December 7, 2008

16 beans

Despite what my birth certificate from 1985 might suggest, I really have the heart of a 4 year old. At least, I'm guessing that's why I can't keep my hands off collections of small, colorful things. Beads, ribbons, note cards, shells, Legos, you name it - if they're small, if they're colorful, and if they're a lot of them, I must make them mine. This may or may not be the sole reason I found myself guiltily buying a large bag of "16 Bean Mix" at the grocery store earlier this week. I've never handled a dry bean before in my life, and here I was purchasing a pound of them. There were white beans, red beans, navy beans, yellow lentils, red lentils, cannalini beans, kidney beans, black beans, black-eye peas, split peas, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, anasazi beans, fava beans, and two types I couldn't even identify! It was obviously a no-lose situation, I rationalized. I would either create a bean-based dish beyond my wildest dreams, or I would pour all 16 varieties out on the kitchen table and spend the afternoon sorting them by shape and color.

In the end, and after a 24 hour-long process, the beans did find their way onto my dinner plate. And here's just how it happened.

16 Bean and Farro Salad with Lemon Pepper Vinaigrette
Recipe requires advanced preparation

2 cup dried beans
1 cup farro grains
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. finely chopped lemon zest
5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh rosemary, thyme and tarragon

Step one: One day ahead, put your beans in a pot and cover with warm water. Add a tablespoon of whey or buttermilk, cover, and let sit for 24 hours.

Step two: Drain and rinse your beans and cover with water once again. Put the pot of beans on the stove over med-high heat until the water begins to boil. Turn down heat, cover, and let the beans cook for an hour or until they have turned soft. IMPORTANT: DO NOT SALT THE WATER. I learned the hard way that you must not salt the cooking water for the beans, or else they will never turn soft. When the beans are soft, remove from heat, drain, and set aside to cool.

Step three: Meanwhile, rinse the farro, cover with water, and put on the stove over high heat. When the water begins to boil, turn down the heat, cover, and let boil for roughly 20 minutes, or until the grains have doubled in size and become chewy. When the farro has cooked, remove from heat, drain, and set aside to cool.

Step four: Make the vinaigrette. Combine the lemon juice, zest, and a 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes so that the salt dissolves in the lemon juice. Whisk in the oil and add pepper to taste. Taste the mixture and adjust if necessary.

Step five: Add the herbs and mix it all up. Beans, farro, vinaigrette, everything. Just throw it into a bowl, stir it up, and taste it to make sure it doesn't need more salt, pepper, oil, or lemon. You don't want the herb taste to be overpowering, so adjust based on how potent your herbs are. If using dried, you'll probably have to add a bit extra to get the same flavor.

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Adriana Willsie and Kylie Springman ©2009