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I am a convert to the charms of Rancho Gordo beans. They’re creamy and flavorful, don’t require soaking, and cook to perfection in under an hour. They’re even local. What’s not to love?

The price tag, I suppose. These buggers cost $6 a pound, while normal beans cost maybe $2, but usually more like $0.99. I don’t cook beans often, though, so it’s not a tough cost to justify, especially when a pound stretches over many meals.

flageolet

Beans have a special place in my past. When I first moved to Washington, DC after college to work for the government and non-profits, I didn’t have much money. It was years before I felt comfortable spending more than $20-$30 per week on groceries. I survived for several years eating a diet heavily dependent on beans, rice, cabbage, and sweet potatoes. Beans and tofu were my primary source of protein in those years, crafted in more permutations than I care to recall.

As I’ve grown my grown-up income and therefore my food budget, my shopping habits have diversified. I’ve relegated beans to “that protein in kale soup”, “a nice extra to throw on quick quesadillas”, or “the once a year bean dip batch”. This dish helps beans level up to sophistication, with the sweet tomato accent and spicy arugula playing off each other and the creamy beans. It’s a perfect fall dinner, at least here, where you can still find straggling tomatoes in the farmer’s markets even in early November.

roasted cherry tomatoes
ragout

flageolet bean ragout with roasted tomatoes, arugula, and sausage
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type: entree
author: saladfordinner.com
prep time: 30 mins
cook time: 30 mins
total time: 1 hour
serves: 4
Tender white beans simmered in olive oil with garlic and spring onion, then tossed with sweet roasted tomatoes, savory sausage, and spicy arugula.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried flageolet, navy, or cannelini beans (any white bean will do) or 2 15 oz. cans
  • 1/4 of a white onion, peeled
  • 1 carrot, chopped coarsely
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • salt
  • 2 spring onions or leeks
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, roasted (instructions below)
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, optional
  • 1/4 lb arugula
Instructions
  1. Prepare the beans (if using dried beans): Cover beans with water, about an inch above where the beans stop in the pot. Add the onion, carrot, and thyme, and bring to a boil. Turn down heat, and simmer until beans are tender, anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your beans.
  2. Roast the tomatoes: Preheat oven to 375. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise and toss with 2-3 T olive oil, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt and ground black pepper. Arrange seed-side up on baking sheet, and put them in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until they are sweetly roasted.
  3. Cook the sausage: Remove the sausage from its casing and add to a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat with 1 T olive oil. Brown the sausage, breaking it up into smaller pieces as it cooks.
  4. Once sausage is mostly browned, turn the heat down to medium low, and add the sliced spring onions or leeks and remaining olive oil. After 3-4 minutes, add the garlic, and cook until onions or leeks are translucent.
  5. Add the beans and tomatoes, and stir to coat with olive oil. Simmer for several minutes longer.
  6. Remove pot from heat. Mix in the arugula.
  7. Serve warm with crusty bread.
Notes

If using normal dried beans, I like to soak them overnight before cooking. I used Rancho Gordo beans, which they say don’t require soaking (and they’re right!). They cook much faster, have a creamier texture, and are more delicious than most dried beans, but also have the price tag to prove it. Canned beans also work just fine if you don’t have the time to cook your own.

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Every gardener knows that a surplus inevitably results from even one zucchini plant. Heat and humidity saturate the July air in much of the country. Not here in California. Fog slurps up any daytime heat and casts an evening chill, even in the depth of summer. I always imagined that warmer climates were the only ones to produce county-fair-ribbon-worthy vegetables. That’s where I saw them growing up: at the California state fair, my grandparents’ house in Missouri.

Until this summer, when my mother and I planted a vegetable garden in her backyard. We dug out packets of seeds from the laundry room that must have been ten years old, from the last time she had a diverse garden. Chives, kale, spinach, carrots, peas, four types of lettuce, and zucchini. I think the zucchini seeds were oldest of all.

Seduced by the blank slate of fresh soil, we planted everything, packing seeds in tight rows. Those veggies faced tough conditions. First they went for a week without water. Then the April rain came down so hard we thought the seeds had washed away.

Eight pound zucchini

zuke2

Now, months of not-too-hot-and-humid-weather later, the garden is brimming with vegetables. Especially zucchini. I don’t particularly care for zucchini, but when I brought home an eight-pound squash last week, we spent the week eating it disguised in many creative forms. The most creative, most consumptive way to use the surplus that we found was zucchini-zagna. Or maybe it’s zucchini-za? I think I’ve finally settled on zuke-zagna.

sliceszuke

zagna

No-Noodle Zucchini Zuke-Zagna Lasagna

Notes

This is essentially a classic lasagna, but with zucchini instead of noodles. It’s gluten-free when made this way, and could be vegetarian if you just left out the meat and used something like mushrooms instead to beef up the tomato sauce (so to speak).

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz. tomato sauce (use a jar of plain pasta sauce, or make your own with 1 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, and one 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • ½ tsp. dried basil, or 4 fresh basil leaves
  • ½ tsp. oregano
  • ½ tsp. parsley
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 lbs. zucchini, sliced thinly
  • 16 oz. ricotta
  • ¼ cup shredded parmasean cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 oz shredded mozzarella

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice zucchini thinly and salt it. After 30-60 minutes, rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp. canola oil in a skillet on high heat. Add both meats and brown them until cooked through, stirring occasionally to brown evenly. Once meat is mostly cooked through, turn heat down to medium. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is almost translucent.
  4. Add tomato sauce, wine, and herbs to meat and onion mixture, and simmer for 15 minutes on low. This is an ideal time to rinse and dry your zucchini slices and whip up the ricotta.
  5. Speaking of which, in a separate bowl, mix the ricotta with the eggs and grated parmasean cheese.
  6. Taste the sauce. Is it too acidic? Add some sugar! Not acidic enough? Add a splash of red wine vinegar. Not salty enough? DON’T ADD MORE SALT YET. The zukes will take care of that one.
  7. Assemble the pieces: Start with a layer of zucchini slices, then add a layer of ricotta mixture, then tomato-meat sauce, then the mozzarella. Repeat two more times.
  8. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and starting to brown on top.
  9. Remove from oven, serve, and enjoy your surplus zukes.
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