The Busyness [Braised Lemon, Leek & Pancetta Beans on Toast]
When things get a little crazy, as they’ve been lately, I find myself constantly daydreaming of sitting at home with a big plate of comfort food, Mr GL and our animals at my side, with a good movie playing. My happy place is there, with them (and maybe a nice bottle of wine). With every season change seems to come more work, though happy work I’m glad to have, more functions, more meetings and more leaving the house, something that leaves a homebody like me feeling a slight bit of dread. I find myself fighting the urge to cancel plans, but I know that these things are essential to building the future I want. And though I often dread them while I stare into the mirror trying to hide the ever-apparent suitcases under my eyes and willing myself to shake off the dread and be happy I have so many interesting people to meet and greet, I always return home happier than I left. Glad for the interactions I’ve experienced, inspired by the people I’ve met, energized by a new project or event I’m taking part in and thrilled to come home to my waiting family. Busy is good. Busy is productive and engaged in a future I used to only dream of. It’s remembering to be completely present in the few moments of quiet, when the computers and phones are put away (which is rare, I’ll be honest), that matters.
When a free night popped up last week, I scoured the pantry early in the morning before heading off to work to see what we could do for dinner. In there I spied a bag of dried Romano beans that I’d picked up a while back for purposes I can’t seem to remember. I poured them into a big bowl of water and would worry about the rest of the details later. Not feeling particularly inspired that day, I put out an inquiry to an ever-brilliant group of Facebook and Twitter friends to see what they would do with the beans and decided that beans on toast would be the perfect plate of comfort I’d been craving so badly. I made a few stops along my walk home from work to grab some essentials and returned home to my beans, now softened and ready for a braise. I chopped and sautéed while Mr. GL and I caught up, him at a chair in the middle of the room and me at the counter – our designated spots. These are some of my very happiest memories; us in our small kitchen dancing around each other (and sometimes just dancing for the sake of it) while we try to get dinner ready. The busyness of everyday life stands still and we’re able to remember what it’s like to just be there, together, enjoying the quiet and each other.
All of the other ‘stuff’ aside, these beans are god danged delicious. I ate two heaping servings (on two massive pieces of toasted country loaf) and would have gone back for thirds if it hadn’t been 9:30pm. Something tells me beans after 9pm aren’t a good thing for any parties involved. AMIRIGHT?! Toot jokes are my very favourite, apologies if you don’t share in my joy.
So let’s show you how to make these beans, shall we? I hope when you make them you’ll remember this post and cook them in the company of someone truly wonderful, someone who makes your busy life stand still for a few moments.
Braised Lemon, Leek & Pancetta Beans on Toast
adapted from Tastespotting
makes 6 servings
If you’d like to hold off on the pancetta, feel free. It does impart a fantastic richness to the beans, but a few glugs of olive oil will do just fine.
You can used canned beans if you simply MUST have these tonight, but dried beans hold their shape better and have a much nicer texture than canned.
2 cups of Romano beans (Pinto will work, too) soaked overnight (or for at least 5 hours)
¾ cup pancetta, cubed
2 celery stalks, sliced thin
3 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced thin
4 cups sodium free stock (veg or chicken) or water
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1 lemon
3 sprigs of tarragon + more for garnish
½ tsp dried thyme leaves
salt and pepper
few pinches red pepper flakes, optional
1 loaf crusty white or whole wheat bread
Preheat oven to 250.
Place a large heavy pot (with fitted lid) on the stove over medium-high heat and let it warm up. Add the cubed pancetta and let the fat render until its crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined bowl. Remove all but 2 tbsp of the pancetta fat from the pot and add the leeks and celery. Stir until they’ve softened, 4-5 minutes. Add the beans, stock or water (or a combination of the two), lemon zest + juice, tarragon sprigs, few pinches of salt, a generous amount of black pepper and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Put the lid on and place in the oven for 1 ½ hours. Remove the lid, stir everything around and place in the oven for another 40 – 60 minutes, until there is still enough liquid to keep things moist, but not enough to make them soggy. Taste for seasoning and serve over toasted bread.
Garnish with fresh tarragon, olive oil and pepper.
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