Saturday, 9 April 2011

Beans, they way I remember Tuscany

As part of my job at the Tel Aviv covered market, located a convenient 10 minutes cycle from my abode, I'm lucky enough to be surrounded with local and global, seasonal and random produce, all on a weekly, if not daily, basis. So much so that my trips to the supermarket have narrowed down to purchasing toilet paper, flour and sugar, and yes, also on those rare midnight cravings for an onion, a bell pepper, or a chocolate bar a supermarket has come in handy and to my aid, along with its bright and flickering fluorescent lighting.

White asparagus, purple basil, onion blossoms and fresh turmeric root have all become viable ingredients, and how easy they make it indeed, to forget that on a scale, between commodity and luxury, they tilt heavily towards the luxury corner.

I treat them like a bright red lipstick; not for everyday use but on occasion yes, that extra touch of glamour goes that extra step and, well, designer clothing will dig a far bigger hole in my bank account.
So I there’s my justification for adding a little glamour to the kitchen in the form of asparagus or a perfectly reduced version of a pineapple that was raised with whispers of love and strokes of affection.

I do, however, always return to the comforts of comfort, because as much as those heels are drop dead sexy, snickers will forever be more comfortable. A dense, thick-crusted bread with salted butter, rice topped with a poached egg and a bowl of hearty stew with added shaved parmesan are more then enough to satiate the hunger within. One such dish is this bowl of beans, cooked as I learned in Florence not too long ago, but now long gone.

Tuscany is known for the freshness of its beans when in season and this dish truly captures the effortless red lipstick of food, with a quintessential heavy Italian Acc-a-cent.

Beans, they way I remember Tuscany

Roughly based and heavily adapted from a recipe published in Jamie Oliver's Jamie’s Italy

serves 4

500g dried or fresh Borlotti beans (cannelloni, butter or zolfini beans will work too)

1 potato, peeled

2 ripe tomatoes, crushed

½ bulb of garlic

A bunch of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage and bay leaves)

Extra virgin olive oil

For the sauce:

3-4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly

3-4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

3-4 sage leaves

1 green chilli, chopped finely

Lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. If using dried beans soak overnight in a large bowl covered with cold water. Drain and rinse.
  2. In a large saucepan, place the beans, potato, crushed tomatoes. Garlic and herbs. Drizzle with olive oil, place over the heat and bring to a boil.
  3. Skim any froth from the surface and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, until the beans are soft and tender.
  4. Drain the beans, discarding of the all but 1 cup of the cooking water. Set aside.
  5. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot fry the green chilli for a few seconds, then stir in the garlic, sage leaves and tomato chunks. Cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes have come apart into a thick sauce. Pour the cup of cooking water and bring to a gentle boil. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir in the cooked beans and add the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  7. Drizzle olive oil and serve.


  1. Hey Nomi,

    Which stand at the port market sells these bean?
    Also, where in the market do you work? I may want to say hello, as a longtime follower of your blog :)

  2. Hi Shai,

    To answer your questions, unfortunately and as far as I know you cant buy fresh beans in Israel, hence I cooked the dried beans. They are the second best thing if you don't count out a trip to Tuscany.

    My work for the market is more of a 'behind the scenes' nature, so I'm not actually there but thanks, its nice to hear :)
    Let me know how those beans turn out...

  3. Well, where do you buy Italian-style beans in Israel? the best beans I could find for Tuscan dishes were Lima beans, which I buy at the Levinsky market....

  4. The ones I had fresh and buy dried are borlotti or cannellini beans.
    Levinsky and Amrani ba'Carmel are probably your best bet for the freshest of dried beans as there's a higher turnover of merchandize...