It is always hard to find appetizers that are seasonal, delicious and bite size. I love the white bean crostinis at Otto, Mario Batali’s pizza place in New York. They are drizzled with olive oil and hot pepper flakes. I used to only go to Otto’s on Tuesday, because that’s the only day they have them. So, I decided to make my own. I used Rancho Gordo beans. They are the most fabulous beans and honestly, if you try them, you will never want to eat a canned bean again. Yeah, they take a little bit of work, you have to soak them for hours and them cook them for another hour or so. But your hard work pays off. I think when people realize the versatility and diversity of legumes; they will be bean lovers for life. My boyfriend has become one, and it makes me really proud.
To honor these delicious white beans, I like to keep it simple to really taste the creamy interior. I mashed them up slightly with garlic and garlic oil, as well as the oil the sage was fried in, topped with crispy fried sage and hot pepper flakes, just like Otto’s. Serve them on the finest slice baguette you can find, quickly toasted. (I like Acme bread in San Francisco; you can’t beat it.) This makes such a perfect nibble before dinner. And with leftover beans, you can make salads or soups.
I didn’t really measure, but I will do my best. You can use cannellini, butter beans or navy beans, any white bean will due.
1. Soak a bag of beans in water, at least 2 hours. But this depends on freshness. If the beans are relatively fresh they only need to soak 2 hours, if not, they need longer. If you don’t have dried beans, skip to step 3.
2. Strain the beans and put into a stockpot, cover with water, add 2-3 garlic cloves, some black peppercorns and bay leafs. Do not add salt during cooking, this toughens the beans up and they will take much longer to cook. Simmer beans uncovered (this allows the gas to release – so you don’t later) until tender. Add salt when beans are tender. And drain the beans.
3. In a small pan, add garlic cloves and oil and do not let them brown. Cook until soft. Pour the oil and garlic and mash with white beans.
4. Fry sage in a small sauté pan with olive oil. Remove when crisp and drain on paper towel. Season with salt when removed from oil. They should be crisp and have turned a darker green. Add oil from cooking sage to mash the beans. Mash the beans, but keep some whole, you want to see some shape and keep their integrity. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
5. Slice baguette, brush with olive oil and toast in a 400 degree oven. Bake until golden brown.
6. Place bean mixture on top of baguette, sprinkle with red chili flakes and top with fried sage.
If you like a smoother mixture, puree in a blender. And for an added kick, drizzle aged balsamic before adding the fried sage.
Rancho Gordo Beans
Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building (San Francisco)