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White Beans from Brigit Binns

Brigit Binns and I share some mutual friends and we've developed an online friendship that will no doubt blossom into the real thing if I ever make it past San Francisco when I head south. She's a smart, funny writer and I told her I'd love to share some bean recipes once we get some decent-sized white beans in. Happily, we have the Alubia Criollo bean in stock and while it's smaller and less potatoey than Gigantes, I think they'd be perfect for this recipe. Alubia-criollo Brigit writes: I thought your readers might enjoy this one, from the as-yet-untitled cookbook of a very talented NYC Greek chef/restaurateur, to be published toward the tail end of 09 Note: For garlic puree, simmer a big handful of peeled garlic cloves very slowly in enough decent but not great olive oil to cover, until they are melt-in-your-mouth tender. Drain (save the oil for vinaigrette) and puree. Bob’s your uncle. Gigantes Plaki Makes 2 ½ quarts 2 pounds dried gigante beans (large limas/habas grande, or Rancho Gordo Alubia Criollo), soaked in water overnight 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 large Spanish or sweet onion, finely chopped 2 large carrots, finely chopped 2 stalks celery, finely chopped 3 fresh bay leaves or 6 dried ¼ cup tomato paste Water as needed Kosher salt and cracked black pepper 1/2 cup Garlic Puree 2 cups crumbled feta cheese 9 whole scallions, sliced thick 1 cup coarsely grated Graviera cheese (or young Manchego or Pecorino) 1. In a large pot, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add all the vegetables and bay leaves and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, to soften without browning. Add the tomato paste and stir for 1 minute. Add the drained beans and enough fresh water to cover everything by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Reduce the heat, partially cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, until the beans are soft. Check occasionally, and add a little water if the level drops below the surface of the beans. 2. Drain the beans, transferring all the liquid back into the pot, and the beans and vegetables to a large bowl. Reserve the beans. 3. Place the braising liquid over medium-high heat and reduce until very thick. This will take some time. To the beans, add the garlic puree, feta, scallions, and only just enough of the reduced braising liquid to lightly coat the beans. Fold together and taste for seasoning. 4. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Transfer the beans to one large or several smaller gratin dish(es). Top with the grated cheese and bake just until warmed through and the cheese is melted, 25 to 30 minutes.

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