Today I’m car-blogging and it feels wonderful – can you see the steering wheel? I have two, possibly three, sick family members at the house and my dishwasher is broken, so it does feel a lot better here on this rainy day than it would at home. Don’t worry, I didn’t run away, just waiting outside of Julia’s ballet class and trying to get some me time.
I am in great company. I got a copy of the delightful book My Pantry by Alice Waters as a birthday gift from a friend and it feels like pure comfort in the written form. Nowadays, good photography has become so much more accessible that we are often reluctant to cook from a recipe without a picture, but this book offers instead charming ink illustrations by the author’s daughter Fanny Singer and an inviting tone, which calms the brain and gives room for your own imagination. Plus, words from the owner of Chez Panisse and American pioneer of cooking with seasonal and organic food really require no pictures.
The Pantry introduces recipes for simple preparations with basic ingredients such as nuts and whole grains, or how to make sweet and savory preserves and fresh cheese. It is specially great for you to make use of what you may already have in your own pantry or learn to make and stock the rights things for days when there is the appetite for cooking but no time for it.
I picked the white bean crostini recipe the other night, slightly adapting it to use what I had at hand. We had it with crusty bread in the evening and it tasted even better the following day as left-over lunch with pita chips. It is super garlicky, perfect for me, but it would have been too much garlic for our kids, so we kept it all to ourselves as a side dish to Italian meatballs. This rustic bean spread would be great with lamb, too, like the author points out.
Next from this book may be the slow-roasted nuts with sage leaves; or almond paste and almond milk. Or the oat pancakes, or farmers cheese or ricotta. It will be a frequent companion in our kitchen. What I also like a lot about it is that it is really about cooking to myself and our pantry. I do feel a little self-absorbed lately, is it a mid-life crisis thing approaching? Or just post-third-child-syndrome? Hmmm.
WHITE BEAN CROSTINI (barely adapted from Alice Water’s My Pantry to my own pantry)
1 garlic clove, peeled
a pinch of sea salt
1 cup of cooked cannellini beans
Smash garlic with salt into a paste using the side of a chef’s knife to press down on it (or using a mortar and pestle if you have it) until you have a smooth paste. Combine the cannellini beans with garlic paste in a medium bowl and slightly mash them together.
Heat oil and rosemary in a small saucepan until the sage leaves begin to sizzle. Turn off the heat and let it rest for 1 minute before adding it to the beans. Gently blend oil, beans and garlic and adjust salt. Squeeze a bit of lemon or lime and drizzle with the extra olive oil just before serving.
I used canned cannellini beans that I had at hand, but if you cook dry beans, the author suggests soaking them overnight and simmering until tender, adding a little sage leaf (which she also uses in the original recipe with the olive oil instead of rosemary – but she also suggests rosemary as a substitute, or marjoram), a couple of garlic gloves and a bit of salt towards the end of the cooking.
Now, shocker to most Brazilian homecooks: last year I saw this post by Serious Eats that convinced me not to soak black beans. That was based on L.A. Times food editor Russ Parsons’ advice (you can find it here) that most dried beans (including cannellini beans) will have a richer and fuller flavor and better consistency if cooked without soaking. For the purpose of this recipe I don’t think it is that important given that we are mashing a lot of the beans and using garlic paste, but as a general rule… don’t soak your beans! Do give yourself at least 2 hours of cooking time, though.