This dish is sort of an inverted, main course version of a classic Tuscan bruschetta starter. Rather than a spoonful of beans topping grilled bread, it’s a bowl of well-flavored beans served room temperature alongside crunchy toasts.
I decided to try the parchment paper/oven method of cooking the beans (detailed below) after seeing it mentioned in various cookbooks. I’ve only done in this one time, so I’m not really sure if I think it’s better across-the-board than the typical stove-top cooking, but the beans sure did turn out creamy and tender!
Anyway, once they’re cooked, the beans are mixed with oil-packed tuna, red onion, briny green olives, parsley and lemon — really delicious and vaguely Sicilian, somehow. To that end, capers would fit right in here, as would a bit of chopped preserved lemon or sprinkling of toasted almonds. And I used tuna because I had some; you could easily swap that out for good quality tinned sardines, mackerel, or the like. Oh, and this recipe makes more beans than you’ll need — use the rest for a little white bean hummus or as a soup addition.
Pairing: Italian White Wine
This dish calls for a bright, crisp white wine. Italian, preferably. If you can get your hands on a white wine from Sicily’s Mt. Edna region, by all means do so. Or perhaps a Greco di Tufo, Gavi or Soave. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed lately:
Michele Chiarlo 2012 Gavi Le Marne ($19). Bright, silky, lovely — with ripe green apple and melon fruit, and hay, almond and citrus notes through the crisp finish. Find it!
Leonildo Pieropan 2011 Soave ($17). Such a happy, vibrant wine — with layers of melon, ripe apple, citrus peel and spice notes. With an appealing finish. Find it!
Esperto 2011 Pinot Grigio delle Venezie ($10). Nice for the price, with pretty green melon, hints of stonefruit, and a clean finish. Find it!
Italo Cescon 2012 Pinot Grigio Veneto ($14). This is the one packaged with a twig of grapevine tied to the neck of the bottle. It’s a fun little wine, with smooth, ripe melon livened-up with bright apricot, citrus peel and a touch of wildflower honey. Find it!
Livio Felluga 2012 Friulano Friuli Colli Orientali ($30). Impressive wine, featuring pretty, silky melon and citrus accented with almond, ginger, smoke and mineral. Evolving finish. Find it!
Recipe: “Sicilian” Cannellini with Tuna
2 cups cooked cannellini (or other large white beans), see recipe below
6 ounces good quality, oil-packed tuna
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/3 cup pitted, chopped Cerignola olives (or other firm green olive)
1/3 cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
juice of 1 large lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
crunchy toasts for serving
While beans are still hot/warm, combine with tuna, onion, olives, parsley, lemon juice and 1/4 cup oil. Season to taste and then refrigerate for a couple of hours to combine flavors. Take back out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving; check seasoning, adjust if needed. Serve alongside warm toasts. Drizzle each serving with additional olive oil and sprinkle with additional sea salt if needed.
To make the beans:
Soak beans overnight and drain.
Preheat oven to 300F. Cut out a circle of parchment paper the same diameter as the bottom of an ovenproof Dutch oven.
Place the soaked and drained beans in the pot along with one stalk celery (cut into 3 large pieces), 1 carrot (peeled and cut into 3 large piece), 1/2 small white onion (chopped), 2 sprigs thyme and 1 bay leaf. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil over high heat. Then cover with the parchment paper circle, then cover that with the lid. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours. Check pot a couple of times — should be simmering, not boiling. Turn down heat a bit if necessary.
When beans are creamy and tender, remove from oven and let cool in their own liquid. Then drain and rinse with cool water, discarding bay leaf, thyme sprigs and celery pieces.