Good morning! In less than one month (28 days, not that I’m nervously counting or anything), my second cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, will be ready to leave warehouses and head to you or your favorite bookstore. A book tour will be quickly under way (I hope we get to meet!). And all of this means that today, I get to share two more awesome things:
I also get to share another video shot in my tiny kitchen by the very talented Ben Pliss. This is one of my favorite recipes from the book, one that has been particularly hard to keep to myself (seriously, check out these two comments from 2014, when I first made it and brought it to a potluck and then couldn’t tell you about it yet, rather rude, I know.)
Here’s the full story, excerpted from the book:
Most of us know the number one rule of cooking for a crowd: don’t make anything new or scary. Not the rack of lamb you’ve been eyeing, not the soufflé or anything else that’s going to send you into a vibe-ruining tizzy. This rule is probably doubly important if you’re invited to a potluck at a big-deal editor’s apartment with a dozen food writers you’re totally intimidated by, each of whom will arrive with his or her own signature dish. But this is not what I did. I’d like to pretend that it’s just because I’ve got an unshakable confidence in my cooking, or, at the least, kitchen, uh, “meatballs” of steel. Alas, it would be more accurate to say that I decided to make this dish you see here—a mash-up of a giant-beans-in-tomato-sauce dish from Greece and American-style baked ziti, with beans instead of noodles—because, well, it was really what I was in the mood to cook that day, and cravings trump rationality pretty much always around here, and especially when I am 6 months pregnant.
Before I left, I baked off a smaller amount for my husband and son for dinner, and my son — perhaps predictably for the then-kindergarten [now-3rd grade!] set — threw a fit. “I do not like beans.” “You’re going to love these.” “I won’t eat them.” “You should try them! You’ll see! There’s tomato sauce, and look at all of that cheese on top… It’s just like pizza.” “Pizza beans!!” (Do I even need to tell you that this did the trick?)
And thus this is the story of how I showed up to a potluck with a dish tagged “Tomato-Braised Gigante Bean Gratin,” but there isn’t a person there who will remember them (fondly, I hope) as anything but “Pizza Beans.”
Pizza Beans / Tomato and Gigante Bean Bake
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 large or 2 regular carrots, diced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white or red wine (optional)
- 4 ounces (115 grams) curly kale leaves, chopped or torn
- 2 1/4 cups (550 grams) crushed tomatoes (28-ounce or 800-gram can minus 1 cup; reserve the rest for another use)
- 1 pound (455 grams) cooked firm-tender giant white beans
- Up to 3/4 cup (175 ml) vegetable broth
- 1/2 pound (225 grams) mozzarella, coarsely grated
- 1/3 cup (35 grams) grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons (5 grams) roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)
Season well with salt and black or red pepper. Cook, sautéing, until the vegetables brown lightly, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the wine, if using, to scrape up any stuck bits, then simmer until it disappears, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the kale, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until collapsed, then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the beans, and, if the mixture looks too dry or thick (canned tomatoes range quite a bit in juiciness), add up to 3/4 cup broth, 1/4 cup at a time. Simmer the mixture together over medium for about 10 minutes, adjusting the seasonings as needed.
If your pan isn’t ovenproof, transfer the mixture to a 3-quart baking dish. If it is, well, carry on.
Bake: Sprinkle the beans first with the mozzarella, then the Parmesan, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on top. If you’re impatient and want a deeper color, you can run it under the broiler. Finish with parsley, if desired.