When heirloom beans became trendy in the restaurant world a few years ago I was quite smug about it. My fondness for beans had long been the brunt of jokes among my culinary peers, and during job interviews it was embarrassing to give the honest answer when asked “what is your favorite food?” I am a bit foggy about whether this keen interest developed during my study abroad trip to Mexico, where beans are the ubiquitous staple, or if out of necessity for cheap, healthy food during my days as a struggling line cook. Either way, I could not get enough of them, and quickly exhausted the limited selection of varieties.
When heirloom beans started making a name for themselves, the possibilities for cooking with these legumes broadened considerably. What’s more, suppliers like Rancho Gordo out of Napa started making interesting varieties like “yellow indian woman” and “snowcap” beans more accessible to cooks through their mail order company. A few years ago they even published a cookbook titled “Heirloom Beans” that includes bean inspired recipes from renowned chefs.
Among the more unusual contributions to the book is one by David Kinch of Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos, California. His Cool White Bean Bouillon immediately caught my eye when I initially flipped through, and I have to say I was strangely intrigued when I read that the preparation time spanned an entire two days. Most cooks would be turned off by this, and I don’t blame them. Still, I was compelled to make it because rarely does a recipe for beans involve anything that elaborate.
The vegetable bouillon, which is essentially the broth for this cold soup, requires the good portion of one day to allow the flavors to steep and the whole thing to refrigerate. Cooking the medley of vegetables individually and allowing those to completely cool demands even more patience from the cook, and I haven’t even gotten to the beans yet. Let’s just say that I had high expectations for this soup when the cooking process was all said and done.
To be frank, I can’t say the results warranted the labor. But if you have extra time on your hands and would like to add an unusual cold soup to your menu during these remaining smoldering days, this is worth a try. If I were to do it all over again, I would eliminate the orange zest and goat cheese from the recipe. These flavors just did not harmonize with everything else going on in the bowl. Instead, I would serve the chilled soup with a slice of grilled baguette, garnished the traditional Spanish way with smeared tomato, garlic and sliced Manchego. This, along with a fragrant Sauvignon Blanc, would make a perfect alfresco lunch.
Manresa’s Cool White Bean Bouillon
courtesy of Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 leek, white part only, split lengthwise
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into quarters
4 parlsey sprigs
2 garlic cloves
1 medium turnip, cut into quarters
1 fennel bulb, cut into quarters
2.5 quarts water
1 tsp peppercorns
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
3 star anise
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 C dry white wine
1/2 lb Cannelini Beans, soaked and drained
8 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
12 small pearl onions
12 baby carrots, trimmed
1 bunch tender young chard leaves, sliced into ribbons
6 baby summer squash, or zucchini
freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 ounces fresh goat’s cheese
1/2 baguette, cut into 12 slices and toasted
1 garlic clove, cut in half
1 tomato, cut in half
grated zest of 1 orange, for garnishing
Make the bouillon: Combine everything but the wine and bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add wine and cool completely without straining.
Strain the bouillon and discard the veges. Reserve 3 cups of bouillon then add the remaining to a pot with the beans. Add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch then simmer the beans for about 1.5 hours, or until just tender. Season with salt and pepper then allow the beans to cool in their broth. Drain the beans, reserving the broth. Take 1 cup of the beans and mash with a small fork until smooth. Season with salt, 2 Tbsp olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Refrigerate the remaining beans.
Bring the reserved bouillon and bean broth to a simmer and individually cook the vegetables until tender. Chill the vegetables and bouillon separately. Season the bouillon and add the vinegar. Rub each piece of bread with some olive oil, garlic and tomato then spoon a small amount of bean puree on each toast. Roll the goat cheese into 18 small balls.
To serve, spoon 1/3 C of the beans into a bowl along with some vegetables, goat cheese and bouillon to cover. Drizzle each with a little olive oil and orange zest. Accompany with toasts.