I'm obsessed with beans! If I had a choice of one food on a desert island, it would probably be beans. I'd have no problem eating them daily.
I love warm beans simply drizzled with virgin olive oil and sprinkled with Maldon salt or as fussed over as Rioja beans I've carried home from Spain, stewed with pork shoulder, chorizo (preferably also smuggled home from Spain), Basque choriceros, the sun-dried red peppers from the Basque Province, tomatoes, pimenton and espelette.
You can imagine my excitement this week when a box of beans was delivered by UPS from my friend, Cesare. I'm so lucky to have friends in the biz....
Cesare Casella, a NY chef friend, owner of Salumeria Rosi on Upper West Side in Manhattan, grew up in Tuscany, the land of the bean eater. He loves beans like I do! The smart guy that he is, started a company called Republic of Beans, selling all kinds of heirloom beans he grew up eating in Italy,--cannellini, barlotti, fagioli del papa, corona, diavoli, rosso di Lucca and zolfino, just to name a few.
Cesare is really a character... He's very funny, very crazy (in a good way), a fantastic chef and truly Tuscan. Though he's been in this country for a few years, he still has a strong Italian accent. I really have to concentrate sometimes to understand him. He seems to add an "a" onto the end of every English word.
He was in San Francisco this week and we had dinner together with a few other friends. We got on the subject of beans. The first thing he said was "You have to sucka the beans." I looked at him for the longest time trying to figure out what he was saying. "Sucka the beans?" I said. "Yes," he said "Sucka the beans." Finally I realized, "SOAK the beans!"
"Why do some beans cook inconsistently?" Mariangela asked. "Is it the age?" Cesare said that it had to do with the amount of water the beans are cooked in and how you store them. "Where should you store them?" I said. We were all surprised when he told us he stored his beans either in the refrigerator or freezer. They dehydrate less.
"And what about the cooking process? Should they be cooked in a small amount of water or a lot of water?" Cesare said beans like a lot of water. "Temperature?" we asked. "Maka sure the beanza waltz-a in the water nota do the rock and rolla." Now that's true Cesare style.
So today I cooked up a batch of fagioli del papa, a large flat purple and beige speckled bean. I soaked them for a couple hours, drained them, put them in the pan with plenty of water and let them waltz for about 40 minutes.
Just now I took a big scoop of warm beans, drizzled them with Tuscan olive oil and sprinkled them with salt. The flavors are rich and deep, almost tasking like chestnuts, and the texture is dense and meaty. Am I happy of what?