This dish is sort of an inverted, main course version of a classic Tuscan bruschetta starter. It’s a bowl of well-flavored beans served room temperature alongside crunchy toasts, rather than the other way around.
I decided to try the parchment paper/oven method of cooking the beans 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 stovetop 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, etc.
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 couple I’ve enjoyed lately:
Michele Chiarlo 2010 Gavi Le Marne ($19). Bright, silky, lovely — with ripe green melon and white peach fruit that is clean and focused and lingers nicely on the finish, picking up lemon peel and mineral along the way. Juicy, long finish. Ready to drink now. Locate this wine online or in your area.
Leonildo Pieropan 2010 Soave ($17). I really loved this wine, for its complex layers of fruit at a great price (green melon, guava, ripe apple) and the array of appealing accents (mineral, almond, smoke) that linger through the finish. It’s a lot of wine for the money. Ready to drink now. Locate this wine online or in your area.
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.