I have been reading the blog, 101 Cookbooks, since before I started my first food blog back in 2005. Many years later, her cookbook, Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel, was a wedding gift from a distant friend, who clearly knows me well.
This cookbook is worth the read cover-to-cover. Heidi Swanson has both verbal and visual storytelling chops. Within these pages, she journeys the world from her San Franciso home to her well-worn destinations. Chock full of travel writing, pensive cook’s notes, gorgeous photos, and approachable vegetarian recipes, this cookbook provides a much-needed respite right now.
I will admit that I often use the recipes of others as a starting point, lending my own spin on the ingredients for either preference or item availability reasons. It says a lot when I follow a recipe without improvisation. Swanson’s recipe for “Fiasco-style Beans” both found on her blog and in her cookbook, is one such recipe.
I fell for its simplicity. Quick prep and slow bake reward with utterly creamy, aromatic, and richly flavored beans.
Whether you serve them with a simple salad or a tear of warm bread is totally up to you.
Recipe: Heidi Swanson’s Fiasco-style Fagioli
from her Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel cookbook
1 pound dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
6 cups water
1/2 cup olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, smashed
7 medium sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Place oven rack in the bottom position and preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Drain and rinse beans. Place beans in a Dutch oven. Add water, olive oil, garlic, sage, and red pepper flakes. Bring all to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, and cover with a sliver of an opening to allow for airflow. Place in oven. After a few minutes, check on the beans to make sure they are still simmering. If not, raise temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Carefully stir in salt after 90 minutes, then continue baking. Bake for about 2 hours, or until the beans are fork-tender.
Serve hot or at room temperature. They are even better after a day or two of rest in the fridge.