Braised White Beans

Braised White Beans | In Jennie's Kitchen

I’ve been wanting to share the recipe for these braised white beans since coming home from Europe six weeks ago. Has it really been that short, yet that long a time since our vacation? Time is such a fickle friend, the moments you love seeming to rush, while the more mundane and sad ones linger on like the last guest at a party that can’t take a subtle hint.

I’ve stammered here a bit these last couple of months, not knowing what this place is supposed to be anymore, or what I want it to be. I watched this again this morning, and was reminded of what In Jennie’s Kitchen was always supposed to be. A place for me, and me alone. The fact that it’s public may not be coincidence, but it is always an after thought for me. It poses quite the conundrum, especially these last few months. I’ve missed being here, but I haven’t missed the voyeurs who hide behind screens, picking apart a life, a person, a family they don’t really know—just the bits and pieces I make the world privy to.

I’m neither here nor there today. Somewhere in between, perhaps where all those lost things go before we find them again. It’s an interesting place to be, an observer looking out onto your own life. Everything looks familiar, yet different.

Yesterday, I took a long drive, winding along country roads, gazing at the thick blanket of snow covering farm lands. I thought about the miracle seasons bring with them. A bitingly cold frost that yields under the glow of sunshine as winter takes its final stretches, and makes way for spring. We’re a way off from that, being only mid-February, but this article in The New Yorker made me think about that drive again in the wee hours of the morning.

Braised White Beans | In Jennie's Kitchen

People, books, therapists often refer to the stages of grief, yet they are not that neat. You do not check the box, move on, and file away your list when the stages are complete. That’s because the stages are cyclical. The stages are really seasons, loss living with you, inside of you, stretch marks on your soul. But loss needn’t be an anchor of sadness or bankruptcy of happiness—that is what occurred to me while reading the New Yorker article.

Schulz writes that losing someone is different than losing an object. There is always hope an object will resurface. Dead people do not. Death does not give hope, or does it? To love so deeply, to have been loved so deeply—it would be foolish to give up on ever feeling that again. What I realize now is that the fear comes not in loving again, but in knowing, and accepting, the vulnerable nature of life. We lose things every day. What matters most is that we do not lose ourselves.

Braised White Beans | In Jennie's Kitchen

Braised White Beans

5.0 from 5 reviews
Traveling with kids, or at least my kids, means our restaurant habits are quite different than you might imagine of someone who loves food as I do. Still, I walked away from our few days in Rome with a lasting impression from a humble plate of beans. They don’t look like much, but every bite nourished my heart, mind, and appetite. The white beans at Pizzeria da Remo were braised in a wood-fired oven. Upon coming home in January, replicating them was my first goal, sans a wood-fired oven (a girl can dream of building one some day…). I tried a few different techniques, including sautéing the aromatics on the stovetop before braising them with the beans. I also tried a version with beans that had been soaked overnight. I liked those the least, and still can’t wrap my head around why chefs, cookbook authors, and even well-seasoned home cooks keep lamenting the virtue of such a task. Think about it—soaking beans begins the hydration process. Would you rather hydrate your beans with plain, tasteless water, or take a little extra time, and refresh them to a plump, pleasingly soft state with the help of a well-seasoned broth, which is what happens with this method. So, dump and braise is what I settled on (that sounds a little rough and rugged, and fits the bill for this Brooklyn girl). Add everything to a pot, pop it in the oven, then walk away for a few hours. For me, the house fills with the scent of memories from a few days in Rome where I realized that while I can’t ever go back home, I can create a new one in which I love and can thrive for years, dare I say decades, to come.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200 grams) dried cannellini beans
  • 3 cups water
  • Thick glug of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot, cut into half moons
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • Small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • Bay leaf, preferably fresh, but dried will do, too
  • Generous amount of sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
  2. Add everything to a deep oven-proof pot. Cook, covered, 2 ½ to 3 hours until the beans are very tender, stirring only occasionally to make sure there’s enough water to keep the beans covered (and add a bit more as needed if it runs low).

21 Comments

  • Lisa Shaw

    So beautifully written, Jennie, and gut wrenching to read. My prayers are with you and your girls. I wish you all many happy years together to make wonderful memories with each other. I hope you will be blessed enough to find true love…again. xo

  • Kenda

    Love this video. I’ve never seen it before. Let’s me get to know you. As for the beans, do you have to cook in the oven? It’s so hot in Florida, I avoid turning on the over as much as possible, even in winter. 80 degrees today.

  • GG

    So much simple truth in these words. Facing my own loss and I am moved to tears by your confirmation of what I’m about to go through and yet sort of grateful for the “heads up” not to mention the lovely recipe. Chin up, Jennie- the only ones vilifying you are troglodytes anyway!

  • Lissa Mattson

    I, too, am suffering from the lost of the love of my life. I am much older than you. We had 43 years together. I understand what you are feelingand know that this loss and sadness will be with me for the rest of my life. On to cooking. I love white beans and I wanted toshare a souce for the tastiest beans, Ranco Gordo and their Marcella beans, developed and grown in honor of Marcella Hazan.

  • Margie

    I was so glad to see the email pop up with your new posting. I have missed you! Your recipes and your words sooth my soul.

  • Lindy

    The loss never ends, not really. We have to learn how to live with it…that is the struggle! We all have a backstory, even the trolls. I sometimes think that is why they troll.

  • Bethh

    I thought the soaking action was to help avoid getting a lot of gas/stomach issues from the beans? I don’t mean to be indelicate but I wonder what happens after eating a meal of these. They look delicious and I love how easy the recipe is, so I may well try it anyway! (but I might wait til I have a few days at home alone)

    Haters are going to hate, I hope you can brush them off and keep your voice. I feel like people are starting to shake off the paralysis of the last few months and are learning how to be true to their hearts even if there is some ugliness as a result.

  • Jennie

    Yes, I’ve heard that regarding digestion for the beans, but it’s pure myth—I’ve never noticed a difference eating them both ways (read this for more insight http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-dont-soak-dried-beans-20140911-story.html). My voice will always be true to who I am. So many thoughts weaved into this post, some unspoken. It’s a mix of the current political climate, and the way blogs have evolved beyond the personal, thoughtful narratives they used to be. Certainly a larger conversation than can be had here.

  • Sally

    I’ve been cooking beans without soaking for a number of years and never noticed an increase in gas. Also, to Kenda, I’ve often cooked them in a small slow cooker (1-1/2 qt).

    Ten or more years ago I read a quote from some actress — don’t remember who it was — “what you think of me is none of my business.” It’s also the title of a book. When I added that to a bit of wisdom I read in The Four Agreements, what other people said about me or think about me had little power.

    From The Four Agreements: “Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own vision of their life. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

  • Jennie

    Yes, a slow cooker, or even the stove top will work fine; it will just taste different. The covered pot in the oven crates a tagine-like effect, and adds a layer of flavor the stove top or slow cooker can’t replicate.

  • Mary

    Ignore the haters. My beloved sister died unexpectedly on January 28th, 6 years to the day our sweet mother died. My father passed 10 months later. I’m suffocated by grief and amazed by the insensitive things people say. I am sitting at work, fighting back tears when your post popped up. Cooking is my release, and it did my broken heart good to read your recipe, but saddens me to think that people can be so cruel. Please know that the number of us that share your pain and appreciate your posts far outnumber the few insensitive people that trample your soul.

  • Micki

    God! I loved that video. It’s true – finding something so complex yet simple as cooking for your family or friends or even just yourself really can help you recenter yourself. I agree that things taste different when they have that added dose of love sprinkled in! XOX

  • Ellie

    Jenny – I have lurked here for years. Yeeeears. I should have said something before now. You are a talent and a marvel. Please realize for every 1 hater there are 10 other lovers who think you are essential.

    Also, we went to Da Remo last March and loved these beans. Thank you, thank you, thank you for figuring them out and posting it as a gift.

  • Alanna Kellogg

    Glad you’re back, I’ve long admired your voice and tenacity — dare I say persistence? — from afar. The anger / vengeance / militance in response to your last post shocked me to the core, it’s been part of my own angst ever since.

    But onto the beans! I’ve still been soaking beans but often throw carrot / onion /etc into the cooking water — and most recently, also an onion stuck with a few whole cloves. I added a “clove onion” to your recipe with some dried unsoaked romano beans this morning. At 2 hours, the beans were all tough and withered looking, anything but a bust appeared doubtful. But at 3 hours, the beans were soft and dreamy good.

    So good on you, backbone and beans both.

  • BethA

    I just discovered your blog. Stay strong. Resilience makes the difference.
    I can’t wait to get home so I can make these beans. They read as life-affirming. Just what is needed.

  • Joyce

    I am a Southern girl who knows about beans, but I don’t think I will ever do the soak/cook method ever again. This is a totally different experience of beans. Thank you!

  • Ashley C

    Don’t let anyone make this place anything other than what you want it to be, it’s yours alone. I remember finding your blogs years ago right before Mikey passed, although I had only discovered your blog days before my heart broke for you and those girls. I’ve continued to stop by every week or so to catch up on your post and life since. You writing shows your strengths, passions, faults, and life which are all why I keep coming back. I’m not going anywhere, I may have grown up in Oregon but my mom and a dear friend when I started working were both from NY, your honesty and bluntness make me feel at home.

Leave a Comment

Rate this recipe: