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A New Twist On Beans

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The Splendid Table®'s How To Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Dear Lynne,

Since we relegated meat to weekends, weeknights we've gone the plant route -- veggies, beans and grains -- but mainly beans because we love them. Except lately we're hitting the wall. We've stewed, marinated, tossed salads, done soups, fried burgers and baked beans until our eyes are crossed. Please, any work night ideas for beans would be welcome here.

Leslie in Pittsburgh

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Dear Leslie,

A first thought while reading your note was why not step back from the beans for a time? With the plenty of vegetables and grains out there, just do global takes on the rest of the plant world.

Then again, beans are too good and too varied to ignore. And there is one cooking technique you might have overlooked. As for work nights, like everybody else I'm always skidding into the kitchen at the last minute, so this idea won't be time consuming.

My standard plan of action no matter what I end up cooking is to immediately flip the oven to 450ºF. when I get in the door, then start figuring out what to do next.

This recipe is a riff on a recipe in our book, The Splendid Table®'s How to Eat Supper.

Provencal Chickpea Oven Roast

10 minutes prep time; 20 minutes oven time.
Holds well in the refrigerator for five days.
Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

We don't think of roasting beans, but with olive oil, seasonings and a flash of high heat, they turn into another experience. Chickpeas, because they're sweet and firm, roast up brilliantly.

Think of this as main dish -- serve it hot with a tart green salad for contrast. Then again it could be a topping for bruschetta, or a sauce of sorts. Pile the roast on broccoli, sweet potatoes, seafood, sliced potatoes, chicken green beans, lamb, rice or ... you get the idea.

One more possibility, a few pulses in the processor with a handful of almonds gives you vegan pate.
Cook to Cook: For speed and fewer tears, slice the onions in a food processor.

5 to 6 oil-packed anchovies, rinsed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Shredded zest of 1/2 large orange
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, bruised
1/2 to 2/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 large (25 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 medium ripe tomato, diced, or 2 canned tomatoes, drained and crushed
3 medium to large red onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Coarse salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Cover a large pan (a half-sheet pan is ideal) with foil and slip it into the oven to heat up.

2. In a large bowl mash the anchovies into the vinegar, olive oil and garlic. Shred the orange zest right into the bowl (you get more of the orange's fragrant oils this way). Add the fennel seeds, olives, chickpeas, tomato, red onion and black pepper, tossing to blend.

3. Spread the mixture over the hot pan. Roast, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions are coloring, but still have a little crunch. The tomato pieces should be cooked down.

Note: For new beans to taste, take a look at Steve Sando's http://www.ranchogordo.com. Steve grows heirloom Mexican and Southwestern beans. He's a serious cook, which takes his catalog a notch above most with detail flavor descriptions. When you order a bean, you know what you are getting. Steve also works in Mexico with farmers growing traditional beans. Growers are contending with the challenges of Mexican shoppers buying cheaper beans being shipped in from China.