It's Sunday, you're feeling organized, you're even willing to cook ahead a bit to make dinner easier during the week. What to make?
A pot of soup is always a winner - always. But if you're like me, you eat it for a couple of meals and then you're ready for something new. (In that case - freeze the rest! Ladle into individual portions, grab-n-go for work, or reheat on a cold day when you're home late and starving. Happiness.)
Another option is to simmer a big pot of beans and enjoy a variety of meals from it, all week long. The beans you simmer yourself are so much more flavorful than the canned variety (although I eat plenty of those too) and are as easy as a slap to make. Choose whichever variety you like best - garbanzo, pinto, navy, flageolet, cannelini, black, lentils, etc. - and simmer away with some garlic, onion, and thyme. When they're just-tender (you want them to hold their shape), into the fridge they go, ready to become lunches and dinners all week long.
This week, I simmered a pot of Beluga lentils. Tiny and glossy black, they do indeed resemble their namesake caviar - I oohed and ahhed over them at the Minneapolis Farmers Market this summer. Aren't they so pretty? They have a lovely fragrance and flavor as well, and hold their shape nicely, rather like French green lentils.
But for this recipe, Part I of Using a Pot of Beans, any bean will do. This dish, like so many that I post, is really about the bacon. What can I say? I bow to the power of pork fat. Bacon in particular is my favorite, since a small amount of it packs so much...everything. In fact, you could stop with just bacon, beans, and cabbage and enjoy a nice lumberjack of a dish - hearty, rough around the edges, nicely appealing.
But nestle a girlie, pretty poached egg on top and witness a full-on flavor romance, rarrr. Salty, sweet, creamy, crunchy. Everything.
With pre-cooked beans on hand, this dish is on the table in 10 minutes.
Pot of Beans
1 lb. bag of your favorite dried bean variety
1/2 c. olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 large shallots (or 1/2 medium onion), chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. salt
Follow package directions for pre-soaking, usually along the lines of rinse and pick over beans, place in a large pot with water to cover, bring to a boil, turn off heat, cover, and allow beans to soak for an hour or so. Drain and rinse beans in a colander.
To cook the beans: In the same large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, shallots, and thyme and saute for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the beans to coat with oil. Pour in cold water to cover by no more than an inch. (Do not add salt - yet.) Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add a little more water if the beans start to become dry. Add salt and continue simmering, another 30-45 minutes, or until beans are just tender. Cool to room temperature, cover, and chill (or freeze).
Poached Egg Over Lentils, Bacon & Cabbage
Serves 1 (recipe can be doubled or more quite easily)
1 slice bacon, chopped
1/2 large shallot, sliced
1/2 c. thinly sliced cabbage
1/4 c. cooked lentils (or any cooked beans)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
Set a saucepan 1/2 filled with salted water on to boil.
Put bacon in a large skillet and set over medium heat. Fry bacon until crisp (do not drain), then add shallot and cabbage to the pan. Saute the shallot and cabbage with the bacon until just tender and wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans and saute for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, season with a little salt and pepper, and leave in the hot pan.
The water will likely boil as you're preparing the cabbage and beans, which is great. Turn heat down so that the water is barely simmering - small bubbles should barely break the surface. As soon as the beans are done, crack one egg into a small dish and slide it into the water. Set the timer for 3 minutes. The egg white will look shredded, but that's OK.
Just before the timer goes off, transfer the beans to a plate.
When the timer goes off, use a slotted spoon to scoop the egg out of the water. Tilt the spoon so the water drains completely off, then place the egg on top of the beans.
Add a light sprinkle of salt and pepper to the egg and serve immediately.