Beans, legumes, peas ... whatever term you use, they are wonderful foods. Their proteins complement those in grains, so they pair well with breads. Europe has wonderful country bean dishes, like this simple meatless soup from rural Italy.
- 2 cups dried navy beans
- 2 medium-sized tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 2 scallions, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
- 3-4 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 branches basil (1/4 cup loosely packed leaves)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Garnish and accompaniments: Freshly grated Parmesan or aged goat cheese, freshly ground black pepper
You will need a large pot with a lid. Rinse beans in cold water to clean, then place in large saucepan, cover with 3 to 4 inches of cold water and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam, drain off water, and cover beans again with cold water to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Put back on heat. As water heats, add tomatoes, scallions, oil, celery, garlic, black pepper, and basil. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer covered for 2 to 3 hours, until beans are cooked and tender. Check beans every so often to ensure that they aren't running dry. Add more water if necessary. Once beans are cooked, add salt, and bring back to a rolling boil for 3 to 5 minutes to thicken. Set aside until ready to serve, then reheat, and transfer to serving dish. Serve hot, topped with a sprinkling of grated cheese and of freshly ground black pepper. Put out pepper and extra cheese so guests can adjust flavorings as they wish.